When the 2005 growing season turned dry, Dan Kamps figured his family would do well in the World's Forage Analysis Superbowl.

“Dry years always make good-testing hay,” says Kamps, of Darlington, WI. “The hay in my shed is probably 15 points higher in relative feed value than last year's, on average, and probably 1-1.5% higher in protein.”

The bump in quality likely wasn't needed, considering the family's past superbowl successes. Dan and Ruth Kamps and sons Joshua and Jacob have dominated the contest's commercial hay and baleage categories in recent years, usually finishing first, second or third in both. In addition, Dan and Ruth won the overall championship in 2000 and Joshua won it in 1997.

Jacob Kamps is this year's grand champion. His winning alfalfa sample, entered in the commercial hay division, tested 26.3% crude protein, 19% ADF, 24% NDF and 69.2% NDF digestibility. Its relative forage quality score was 344 and its calculated milk production per ton was 3,962 lbs. The variety was LegenDairy YPQ.

When Jacob was named the overall superbowl winner, Harlan Fegler, Casper, WY, captured first place in commercial hay. Joshua Kamps placed second; his parents, 11th.

Joshua also finished third in commercial baleage. Dan and Ruth had the fourth- and eighth-place entries in that category, and Jacob came in ninth.

The four Kamps are all actively involved in their hay, corn and soybean operation. Jacob is a high school senior. Joshua graduated from college last year and now farms with his parents and brother. With his return to full-time farming, the family rented 100 more acres this year and seeded it to alfalfa.

Most of the hay and baleage from their 600 alfalfa acres is sold to dairy farmers and horse owners in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

Frequent cutting, ample fertilization, annual insect control and short rotations are some of the ingredients in their quality-hay recipe. Alfalfa is cut every 28-30 days, even this year when drought reduced overall yields.

“There wasn't much of a windrow in a few spots after we cut,” says Dan Kamps. “But you've got to cut it off and hope for rain so it'll start growing again.”

Four cuttings were harvested by mid-August, and a fifth was planned for some fields.

To protect quality from leafhoppers and other insects, all fields are sprayed 10 days after cutting with two-thirds the recommended rate of an insecticide.

“There are a lot of insects out there,” says Kamps. “None of them are at threshold, but if you add them all together, it makes a difference. So at 10 days we spray everything so we don't have to worry.”

Dry fertilizer is applied twice during the growing season. The last two years, additional fertilizer has been applied with the insecticide. That foliar fertilizer is a mixture of micronutrients, including boron.

“We've had good results,” says Kamps. “We've seen increased leaf size and that for sure ends up in the protein and probably the feed value.”

He plants varieties that score 29 or 30 in the Wisconsin Disease Rating Index.

“I believe that with intensive cutting you're really pushing hay, and you don't want any disease out there,” he says.

Stands last the seeding year plus two more, sometimes three more on sloping fields. Short rotations cash in on alfalfa's nitrogen contribution to the following corn crop and keep alfalfa at maximum productivity, says Kamps.

“In the past I found myself stretching my hayfields out too long, and I lost some quality and tonnage doing that.”

Other category winners in the 2005 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl are:

Dairy hay: Mike Beun, Waterloo, WI.

Dairy haylage: Fanfare Farms, Monticello, IA.

Commercial baleage: John Mast, Arcola, IL.

Champion first-time entrant: West Vale-Vu Dairy, Nashville, MI.

The forage quality contest is sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower, AgSource Cooperative Services, DairyBusiness Communications, World Dairy Expo and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.