Overall entry numbers were down slightly from previous years, but average quality scores were high at last week’s Southeast Hay Contest, held in conjunction with the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, GA.

Vickers Still Farm, Coffee County, GA, captured overall honors in the contest with an entry in the Perennial Peanut/Alfalfa Hay category. The farm’s entry tested 264 for relative forage quality (RFQ), with 23.2% crude protein (CP) and 77.3% total digestible nutrients (TDN).

Other category winners are listed below.
Warm-Season Perennial Grass Hay – Rusty Bean, Jones County, GA: RFQ, 155; CP, 17.5%; TDN, 64.4%.
Cool-Season Perennial Grass Hay – Duncan Legacy Farm, Carroll County, GA: RFQ, 154; CP, 11.3%; TDN, 58.4%.
Mixed and Annual Grass Hay – Larry Smith, Elbert County, GA: RFQ, 175; CP, 11%; TDN, 60.9%.
Grass Baleage – Woodson Montgomery, Oconee County, GA: RFQ, 166; CP, 11.9%; TDN, 63.9%.
Legume Baleage – Troy Platt, Madison County, FL: RFQ, 163; CP, 17.1%; TDN, 68.5%.

The average RFQ for entries in this year’s contest was 121 vs. 117 last year, notes Dennis Hancock, contest organizer and University of Georgia extension forage specialist. “We also saw an increase in RFQ scores in most of the individual categories,” he says.

Overall, there were 160 entries in six categories, down from last year’s 195 entries. Weather was likely a major factor. “We had a lot more rainfall in many areas this year than we’ve had in recent years,” says Hancock. “While that was certainly a good thing overall, it created problems for growers trying to put up high-quality hay.”

A slumping ag economy may have also played a role. “A lot of hay growers in this region are also beef producers or dairy producers. Both of those sectors have been struggling,” he says. “And even though the entry fee for this contest is the same as the cost of a routine forage analysis, a lot of people are pinching pennies.”

On the upside, Hancock notes, the contest attracted entries from North Carolina to Louisiana and as far north as Kentucky. “We’re pleased with that,” he says. “It shows this is truly a regional contest and that growers in the Southeastern U.S. can produce very high-quality hay.”

For a complete rundown of category placings, along with guidelines for testing forages, a discussion of the value of RFQ and information on entering the 2010 Southeast Hay Contest, go to the University of Georgia’s forage Web site. For additional information, contact Hancock at 706-542-1529 or dhancock@uga.edu.