She said producers should set production goals for hay production or grazing and fertilize accordingly. “Without soil test recommendations, it’s just a guessing game. At $12 per sample, soil testing is a bargain.”

She recommends annual testing for hay production. “Taking hay off removes nutrients and changes the soil environment every time you cut and bale.”

For pastures, she said testing every two or three years should be adequate and that recommendations will consider credits for nutrients already available. “Cattle recycle nutrients with feces and urine in pastures. Nutrient recycling is less in hay meadows.”

Producers should take a standard sample, from 0 to 6 inches deep, for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They might also want a deeper sample to detect nutrients at 12, 18 or 24 inches. She said secondary nutrients—calcium, magnesium and sulfur—are also important, along with micronutrients—copper, iron, manganese and zinc.