How to Take a Pasture Sample
Have you ever wanted to know exactly what nutrients your horse is getting from your pasture? It’s easier than you might think to find this out. In order to get a pasture analysis performed though, you will need to collect a pasture sample and send it to a local laboratory or one that specializes in horse feed/forage analysis like Equi-Analytical (which is what I prefer to do).
Believe it or not, your horse can get most, if not all, of his nutrient requirements from pasture or hay. It’s not just a filler! Forage should make up the majority of your horse’s diet, so knowing what’s in the forage you feed is important.
In this post, I will explain the basic steps for collecting a pasture sample. You will need these tools in order to get started:
- clean plastic bucket
- sealable plastic bag (at least 1 quart size)
- ruler/ tape measure
1. Take your tools to the pasture you’d like to sample. Use the ruler or tape measure for these two measurements: a.) length of un-grazed grass, and b.) length of stubble left after grazing. When you subtract you stubble height from the un-grazed grass height, this will give you your grazing height, which is what you’ll want to cut for your sample.
For example, let’s say your un-grazed grass is 8 inches tall and the stubble is 2 inches. 8 – 2 = 6. So the top 6 inches is what you’ll want to cut for your sample.
2. Collect a handful of grass from about 15 randomly chosen locations in the pasture. Remember to trim the grass at your grazing height. Then clip your sampled grass into 1-2 inch pieces before depositing in your bucket.
3. Weigh your grass–you will need about 1 pound. Collect samples from a few more locations, if necessary.
4. Thoroughly mix grass in bucket and then transfer to the plastic bag. Press all the air out of the bag before sealing. (Make sure to label bags if sampling from more than one pasture.)
5. For best results, freeze the sample overnight and ship with ice packs the next day. This will keep the plant proteins from breaking down.
Something you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re concerned about sugars in the pasture– taking a sample in the morning or on a cloudy day will result in lower sugar values, while taking a sample in the late afternoon on sunny day will result in higher sugar values. If you want to know your highest sugar values, collect the sample on a sunny afternoon.