National Hay Test Guidelines

Table 1: Alfalfa guidelines

Quality Designation Relative Feed Value (RFV) Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF)
Supreme Over 185 Under 27
Premium 170-185 27-29
Good 150-170 29-32
Fair 130-150 32-35
Utility Under 130 Over 35

Quantitative factors are approximate, and many factors can affect feeding value.

Table 2: Grass Hay guidelines

Quality Designation Percent Crude Protein (CP)
Premium Over 13
Good 9-13
Fair 5-9
Low Under 5

Quantitative factors are approximate, and many factors can affect feeding value.

Hay Quality Designation’s physical descriptions

Supreme: Very early maturity, pre-bloom, soft fine stemmed, extra leafy. Factors indicative of very high nutritive content. Hay is excellent color and free of damage.

Premium: Early maturity, i.e., pre-bloom in legumes and pre-head in grass hays, extra leafy and fine stemmed. Factors indicative of a high nutritive content. Hay is green and free of damage.

Good: Early to average maturity, i.e., early to mid-bloom in legumes and early head in grass hays, leafy, fine to medium stemmed, free of damage other than slight discoloration.

Fair: Late maturity, i.e., mid to late-bloom in legumes, head-in grass hays, moderate or below leaf content, and generally coarse stemmed. Hay may show light damage.

Utility: Hay in very late maturity, such as mature seed pods in legumes or matture head in grass hays, coarse stemmed. This category could include hay discounted due to excessive damage and heavy weed content or mold. Defects will be identified in market reports when using this category.

Forage Quality: The Importance of Testing

Testing forage accurately can provide a good estimation of forage quality. Test results can be used for: marketing and pricing forages; evaluating, growing, cutting, and storage; formulating nutritionally balanced rations; and developing and allocating forage inventories.

Recommended tests for determining forage quality include:

  1. Dry Matter (DM)
  2. Crude Protein (CP)
  3. Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF)
  4. Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF)
  5. Calcium (Ca)
  6. Phosphorus (P)
  7. Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN)
  8. Relative Feed Value (RFV)

Listed below are certified Missouri laboratories which conduct hay and other forage analyses. No endorsement is implied, nor discrimination intended. Individuals should contact the laboratory for a listing of analysis offered, a fee schedule, and specific instructions for sampling and handling.


Custom Laboratory
3068 Highway 37
Monett, MO 65708
(417) 553-8510