The University of California, Davis is offering an on-line program to become just that.

Logging on to http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu and linking to "Forage Testing" will reveal a step-by-step protocol, supporting reading materials and an educational exam leading to a self-certification process as a hay sampler.

It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to take the test, according to University of California, Davis Extension Forage Agronomist Dan Putnam. The program is free.

There are 30 questions about the hay sampling and testing process aimed more at education than knowledge testing, according to Putnam.

At the successful completion of the on-line test, the name and e-mail address of the candidate are stored electronically and can be used to verify that the individual completed the exam. Printed certificates also are available to the successful candidate to use in hay sampling certifying that he has completed the on-line exam.

UC does not certify the sampler, noted Putnam, but the sampler certifies that he or she has successfully passed the certification exam and has conducted sampling according to the prescribed protocol.

This system may have the most appropriate fit for people who want to improve the integrity of their sampling methods and lab results, noted Putnam.

hcline@primediabusiness.com