When Carl Stiemsma won the World's Forage Analysis Superbowl, he was a young dairyman striving to improve milk production in his registered Holstein herd, in part by growing high-quality forages.
“Dairy was big and herd averages were climbing,” recalls Stiemsma, of Randolph, WI. “DHIA was a big thing and everybody wanted to get to the top of the list.”
That was 20 years ago. Stiemsma was an early winner of the forage quality contest, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. He topped four hay and haylage classes in 1987, then won the overall championship in 1988. But that was the last time he entered. A barn fire effectively ended his dairy career the following year. One by one, his neighbors left the business, too.
“Everyone I knew around this area was milking cows back then,” he says. “I think there were nine farms on our stretch of road that milked cows, and now there are none.”
Today, Stiemsma grows corn, soybeans and other cash crops but no forages, and recently sold a non-agricultural sideline business that he started shortly after he quit dairying. But he has fond memories of his Superbowl victory and annual trips to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI.
“Everybody went to the Dairy Expo,” he remembers.
Perennial Superbowl finalist Karl Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI, still does, in part to see the top-placing hay and silage samples on display in the Arena Building.
“I show alfalfa and my wife shows cows,” he quips.
Karl and Barb Wogsland won the contest in 1996, the first year they entered, and have topped the dairy hay class five times since, finishing second the past two years.
“Once I started, I kind of got hooked on the competition,” says Karl. “It's very, very fun for me to do.”
He also enjoys growing high-quality alfalfa for his registered Holstein herd, which has grown in size and productivity since the Superbowl victory. In 1996, the Wogslands milked 36 cows with a 24,000-lb milk production average. Today they average 26,000 lbs from 200 cows.
They usually go to the Dairy Expo on Thursday of that week, when Superbowl finalists are invited to a luncheon in their honor.
“I've gotten to know a lot of nice people who have entered from throughout the country and Canada, too,” says Karl.
“It's always a fun day,” agrees Dan Kamps, Darlington, WI, another frequent Superbowl luncheon guest.
Kamps and his family, in fact, have been the most successful contestants over the last decade. Dan and Ruth Kamps and their sons, Jacob and Joshua, have won the overall championship three times since 1997, and have placed first, second or third in the commercial hay and baleage classes several times.
“We first entered because it was kind of intriguing to see what kind of hay we make compared to everybody else,” says Kamps. “And now we keep entering because it's fun to see how good our hay can actually be.”
For the first time in almost 20 years, he didn't enter in 2007 because he wasn't satisfied with the quality of his crop.
“We had a lot of rain here, and I know that when you have a lot of rain you get a lot of hay but it doesn't test,” he says. “It takes a droughty year to win the hay contest.”
Kamps, who also grows corn and soybeans, has 400 acres of alfalfa, but most of it winterkilled this year and had to be replaced. He plans to enter the 2008 Superbowl only if hay from the new seedings is very high in quality.
“After you win a few times, you like to be right up there all the time,” says Kamps.
Wogsland has harvested a lot of high-quality hay and silage this summer, and is looking forward to entering the 2008 contest.
“It looks promising,” he says. “May-be I'll get out of second place.”