Hay doesn’t always get the respect it deserves.
You won’t find it featured in any “farm-to-table” magazine spreads or highlighted in a “Got hay?” marketing campaign. Good hay’s not flashy, but without it, great steaks and cheese would be impossible.
This year’s baleage and hay producers from across the Southeast have a chance to show off the fruits of their labor at the Southeastern Hay Contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in October. The registration deadline is Monday, Sept. 28.
This year’s contest features cash prizes for the winners of all seven categories, as well as free use of Massey Ferguson-brand hay equipment for the production season.
For more than a decade, the Southeastern Hay Contest has been spotlighting high-quality hay and baleage production in the region. The Cooperative Extension programs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have organized the contest since its inception.
“We hope every high-quality hay producer from Texas to Virginia will enter for a chance to win,” said Dennis Hancock, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension forage specialist and director of this year’s contest. “Our goal is to demonstrate the potential to produce high-quality hay and baleage in the Southeast. Just as important, we want to highlight the technology that makes it all possible.”
This year’s entries will be judged on their composition, including protein and total digestible nutrients (TDN), and on relative feed quality scores.
Because of higher livestock prices, forage producers are seeing an increased demand for their baleage and hay. With increased demand, prices for hay and baleage have gone up, and livestock producers are demanding better quality hay and baleage for those higher prices. As a result, the quality of forage crops has increased dramatically over the last decade, Hancock said.
“The key to success has always been timely management,” Hancock said.
Good management has become more efficient through the use of improved forage varieties, advanced harvest equipment and other technologies that have come to the market during the last decade, he said.
“It is hard to recall a more exciting time in the hay and forage industry,” he said.
To celebrate, Hancock and other hay contest organizers decided to up the ante on their hay contest with the help of some big-name sponsors, especially new title sponsor, Massey Ferguson.
The company will provide the use of a new Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rake for the 2016 hay production season and $1,000 cash as the grand prize for this year’s contest. Cash prizes will be provided to first, second and third place winners in each of the seven categories.
Massey Ferguson will also provide the winner of first place in the warm season perennial grass category with the use of a new DM Series professional disc mower for the 2016 hay production season.
Additional industry partners sponsored each of the seven categories. These sponsorships will provide cash awards to the top three places in each category, including $125 for first prize, $75 for second prize and $50 for third prize. Georgia Twine is sponsoring the warm season perennial grass category. America’s Alfalfa is sponsoring the alfalfa hay category. Silo-King is sponsoring the perennial peanut hay category. Inland Tarp & Liner is sponsoring the cool season perennial grass category. Athens Seed Company is sponsoring the mixed, annual grass and other hay category, and Tube-Line is sponsoring the grass baleage and legume baleage categories.
Hancock encourages producers from all 13 Southeastern states to check out the rules and entry forms and to enter today. The deadline for entry into the Southeastern Hay Contest is 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28. Winners will be recognized at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, in Moultrie, Georgia, in October.
More information about the contest, including the rules and entry form, is available at bit.ly/SEHayContest2015. Also, follow the Southeastern Hay Contest on Twitter (@SEHayContest) and Facebook at www.facebook.com/SEHayContest for periodic articles, updates and timely information on producing high quality hay and baleage.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(Dennis Hancock serves Extension Forage Specialist for UGA Cooperative Extension.)