The clock is ticking for hay growers looking to enter the 2009 Southeastern Hay Contest. Deadline for entering is Sept. 30. Contest winners will be announced at the Sunbelt Ag Expo at Spence Field in Moultrie, GA, on Oct. 20-22.

Entries for this year’s contest have been trickling in at a “fairly normal pace,” reports contest organizer Dennis Hancock, University of Georgia extension forage specialist. “As of early August, we had about 100 entries,” he says. “But it’s still a bit early. Most of the entries usually come in during the last two weeks or so.”

Open to hay growers in 13 southeastern states, the contest dates back to 2004. “With 195 entries last year, we were down a bit (from 255 entries in 2007),” he says. “But that was probably because of high fertilizer prices and drought.”

Modifying the contest to reflect changes in forage growing trends in the region has played a big part in its growth, Hancock says. “One change that has really increased the number of entries was the addition of the grass and legume baleage categories. The growing use of baleage in the South has resulted in more and more baleage samples coming in as entries. However, the biggest change has been the increase in popularity of growing alfalfa in the Deep South during the last three years or so. This has really stepped up the competition in the perennial peanut/alfalfa hay category and the legume baleage category.”

Increased grower recognition of the value of participating in the contest has also helped boost entries. “Contest winners get a lot of notoriety – during the expo itself, on extension Web pages devoted to forage production and in major farm magazines. And those who don’t win still benefit. It allows them to assess how well their management is doing relative to their peers.”

Rules and entry forms for this year’s contest are available at Hancock reminds those intending to participate to submit their entries through a county extension agent and to use a single package for the entry, entry forms and analysis fee to ensure all materials are received by the lab at the same time. Additional information is available at