Sampling Soils and Forage + Bulls

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Sampling Soil and Forages + Bulls

By Paul Westfall, County Extension Director

The soil is wet, so soil samples are harder than normal to get. Of course, since soil samples need to be air dried before sending to the lab, we are looking at a deadline of sorts for getting soil tested. As of December 1, 2016, and running through March 31, 2019, there is a fee of $4 per sample for soil analysis at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ soil testing lab. After that date, the lab will still accept samples, but each person submitting them will need to write a check the NCDA&CS that will accompany the samples to the lab. There is an option to set up an escrow account with the Department to cover these costs, and there is an option for people to submit their sample paperwork on-line and use a credit card to cover the sample fees. However, the information form used in that process must still be printed and submitted with the actual sample(s). If anyone wants to set up an escrow account or learn how to use the online submission process should contact their county N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.

While we are talking about taking samples, please consider submitting some hay samples to learn what the nutritive value of your forages actually is. Forage sample analysis costs $10, and the farmers get some very valuable information to use when deciding what supplements will be needed to help get livestock through the winter feeding period in good shape. The sample can also be tested for nitrate levels at no extra charge. Most of the time, nitrates are not a problem in Fescue hay but can be present in Johnsongrass, hybrid sudangrass, or even Fescue. Since this test is free, why not find out via a test result instead of finding out the hard way.

The Granville County Cattleman’s Association and the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Granville County Center have hay sampling tools available to take samples with. To use the tool, please contact me at (919) 603-1350 before you want to use it. You will also need a pretty strong cordless drill as the sampling tool bores into the bale and really gives the drill a workout. Take cores from several bales and mix them together in a gallon size sealable bag. There is an information form to complete, and the sample is ready to go to the lab. Results for the nitrate test are pretty quick. The nutrient testing takes a bit longer since there are more tests to run.

Be sure to check the hay inventory and make sure there is enough on hand to get through until grass begins growing next spring. N.C. Cooperative Extension has a tool that is very useful in helping determine whether there are enough feed and forage on hand to get through the winter feeding period. It is generally better to procure any needed hay or by-product feeds like whole cottonseed, distillers grains, or gin trash now rather than wait until supplies are short later. Whole cottonseed prices are pretty favorable now and are a great protein supplement for beef cattle.

Now for the bulls. Here is a great opportunity to get a last minute Christmas present for the farm! The Butner Performance Tested Bull Sale will be held on Friday, December 21, 2018, at the Granville County Livestock Arena located on Cannady’s Mill Road just south of Oxford, NC. Beef farmers needing to get a young bull for the herd should take a look at this group of bulls. Performance data and expected progeny difference (EPD) information are available for all the bulls that are in the sale. Sale catalogs will be coming out soon, so if one is needed, please contact your county N.C. Cooperative Extension Center. The Granville phone number is (919) 603-1350, or request one via email to paul_westfall@ncsu.edu.