Hay and Pasture Forage Testing        


Testing feed is important step in proper feeding of Llamas and Alpacas.
Below is a discussion on what can be used to successfully test you feed.

Hay testing requires the use of a Hay Probe. These are used to sample hay bales and come in many varities. 

A popular probe uses your own cordless drill to drive the probe into the bale. It's easier, but if you forget your drill or the battery is dead, the probe is useless.  If you're concerned about this, suggest you look at a non-drill type probe.

There are probes that come with a sort-of inverted bucket to hold a plastic bag to collect the hay. This is handy but not necessary.

The probe end that is inserted into the hay bale is serrated and extremely sharp. To keep it sharp when not in use the probe should include a rubber cap. Also typically probles come with a rod that is used to push the hay out of the probe. These probes are typically a wood dowel. If it comes with an aluminum dowel, although it's a softer metal than the probe, it's best if you replace it with a wooden one.

The many local CSU Extension offices throughout Colorado will let you borrow a hay probe at no cost. It does require a deposit. To find an extension office near you, visit the USDA webpage.

To locate and buy probes.. start with a google search.

You can also use the resources of the National Forage Testing Association.

  What to test for and what lab to use.

At bare minimum, test for:

optional-Nitrate - NO3

Typically testing labs can also supply results for:

Dry Matter, Moisture, Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), Crude Fat, Ash, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Chloride, Nitrate, dNDF48, ADFIP, NDFIP, Lignin, Crude Fiber, Starch~, Soluble Protein, RFV, RFQ, ADFIP/Crude Protein, NDFIP/Crude Protein, Sol. Protein/Crude Protein, NFC, Lignin/NDF, TON, Net Energy Lactation.

Terminology and Units Used in Lab Reports

To find testing labs, you can ask around what your Camelid neighbors use, do a google search for testing labs in your area. You can also look at the National Forage Testing Association.

Many labs will mail you sample collection bags, envelopes and forms to send in your samples. Visit their website for prices, etc.

  Nitrate (NO3)&

Nitrate/Nitrite Facts, Poisoning and Testing Links:
Nitrate/Nitrite poisoning is main concern when drought conditions, and lower quality hay exists.
CSU Verterinary Diagnostic Laboratory web page on nitrate
CSU Extension link 1
CSU Extension link 2
Merck Manual


Nitrate Ion (NO3) Nitrate-N (NO3-N ) Recommendation
<4,400 <1,000 Safe, non-toxic level
4,400-9,300 1,000-2,100
Safe for non-pregnant animals.
Adapt pregnant animals slowly or mix with low nitrate feed.
9,300-15,000 2,100-3,390 Limit to less than 50% of ration DM. Do not feed to pregnant animals without mixing with low nitrate feed. Adapt animals to mixture.
>15,000 >3,390 Limit to less than 25% of ration DM. Do not feed without diluting with low nitrate feed. Adapt animals to feed mixture.
Courtesy NebGuide - University of Nebraska  Values are given in ppm





Pasture Forage

Colorado State University Extension Service has an excellent Forage Guide (PDF).