Knowing what to ask ahead of a manure analysis test could help you receive the information you most want. It also allows the laboratory to best meet your needs.

Here are four key questions to ask your testing lab, as suggested by the MidWest Plan Service at Iowa State University:

1. How many years has the laboratory been performing manure analysis?

Best Answer: The lab should have at least two years of experience in manure testing.

2.  After the lab receives samples, how are they handled?

Best Answer: The samples should be tested immediately. If that’s not possible, the samples should be refrigerated or treated to maintain their integrity until analyzed.

3. Is the lab certified by an independent quality control organization?

Best Answer: Yes. This assures that the lab adheres to industry-sanctioned quality control standards, which can help validate the results.

4.  How long does a customer typically wait before results are returned?

Best Answer: Results should be complete within a consistent and predictable amount of time. Knowing the typical turn-around time for results is important to your ability to use the manure. If you know it will take two weeks to get results, you’ll be able to schedule your sampling two weeks before you need the results. A lab that can’t tell you how long results will take could leave you hanging when you really need the report.

One last piece of advice: When testing manure for the first time, consider sending exactly the same samples to at least three different labs so you can compare results.

If results are similar, choose the lab that gives you the most value and service for your dollar. Remember, cheapest isn’t always best. Customer service is the hallmark of a reliable lab, so make sure you consider how well the lab lived up to its promises.