Farmers from 13 Southeastern states competed to show off their farm’s best hay or baleage in the 2015 Southeastern Hay Contest.

Of the 375 samples entered into the contest, McGee Ranch, of Idalou, Texas, submitted the best hay. The farm’s alfalfa hay was judged best in terms of its composition, including protein and total digestible nutrients (TDN), and relative feed quality scores.

The McGee Ranch and the winners in each of the hay contest’s seven categories were honored on Oct. 20 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.

In addition to public recognition, the McGee Ranch will receive a $1,000 cash prize provided by Massey Ferguson company and the use of a Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rake for the 2016 hay production season.

To compare the McGee Ranch alfalfa hay to samples of peanut hay and warm season grasses, the contest turned to the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Feed and Environmental Water Laboratory. The lab calculated each sample’s relative forage quality (RFQ) score, which takes into account the amount of digestible nutrients in the hay as well as other factors.

There were many quality samples submitted this year, said Dennis Hancock, the contest’s organizer and UGA Cooperative Extension forage specialist.

“The average RFQ was on par with or equal to the highest values in the contest’s 11-year history,” Hancock said. “Good management can make a remarkable improvement in forage quality in both favorable and unfavorable weather conditions.”

For more than a decade, the Cooperative Extension programs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have organized the Southeastern Hay Contest to highlight quality hay and baleage production in the region.

This year, in part due to new sponsorships and prizes, the number of entries in the contest jumped from about 185 to 375, making it one of the largest forage contests in the nation.

“For perspective, the World Forage Analysis Superbowl, which is held in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison (Wisconsin) had 385 entries this year,” Hancock said. “So, we are knocking on the door of having the largest forage quality contest.”

For Hancock, whois also an associate professor of crop and soil sciences at UGA, the forage contest is just another way to spread the word about the importance of quality forages and learn about the state of the hay and baleage on the market.

For more information about this year’s winners and next year’s contest, visit bit.ly/SEHayContest2015. Also, follow the Southeastern Hay Contest on Twitter (@SEHayContest) and Facebook (facebook.com/SEHayContest) for periodic articles, updates and timely information on producing quality hay and baleage.

 

Category winners in the 2015 Southeastern Hay Contest include:

Warm Season Grass

• First place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

• Second place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

• Third place, Eddy Turner of Tennille, Ga.

 

Alfalfa Hay

• First place, McGee Ranch of Idalou, Texas

• Second place, Steve Mitchell of Mountainside Farm in Taylorsville, N.C.

• Third place, Daryl Manning of Gamble Farm in Summerville, Ga.

 

Peanut Hay

• First place, Justin Williams of Graceville, Fla.

• Second place, Basford Farms of Grand Ridge, Fla.

• Third place, Farrell Roberts of Tifton, Ga.

 

Cool Season Grass

• First place, James Burton of LaFayette, Ga.

• Second place, Dustin Braswell of Danielsville, Ga.

• Third place, Oak Ridge Ranch of Dahlonega, Ga.

 

Mixed Annual Grass and Other Hays,

• First place, Bill Grubb of Comer, Ga.

• Second place, Kyle Knight of Sandbriar Farm in Sylvania, Ga.

• Third place, Jim Patton of Comer, Ga.

 

Grass Baleage

• First place, Walters Farm of Barnesville, Ga.

• Second place, Walters Farm of Barnesville, Ga.

• Third place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

 

Legume Baleage,

• First place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

• Second place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

• Third place, Yon Family Farms of Ridge Spring, S.C.

(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)