Andre and Teresa Grenier changed their farming practices dramatically three years ago, converting 900 acres from cereal grains to alfalfa.
Previously, the Greniers grew only enough alfalfa to feed their 55 dairy cows. Now they're immersed in a St. Leon, Manitoba, commercial hay business and already have loyal dairy customers in the Midwest.
They've also received affirmation that they're on the right track in their quest for quality hay, earning top honors in the '98 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl. They were named World Champion Forage Producers at last October's World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI.
Their winning entry, from a first cutting of Pickseed 8920 alfalfa made in early June, tested 27% crude protein, 24.8% ADF and 33.8% NDF. It had a 191 relative feed value (RFV) score and a final score of 92.53.
"We were lucky last year and hit the weather just right," says Teresa. "We had a really nice crop and lots of it - that gives us a good boost."
As contest grand champions, the Greniers will get one year's free use of a self-propelled forage harvester from Case Corp.
By concentrating solely on alfalfa, they can raise and market the crop they enjoy the most.
"I like the aggressive, fast pace of making alfalfa compared to growing cereal crops," Andre says. "With haymaking, you have to hustle to get things done before rain sets in."
The couple's decision to switch to alfalfa also included some financial factors.
"We wanted to try and get along with just one set of equipment," says Teresa, noting that they sold most of the machinery they had for raising barley, wheat and canola.
"With the exception of canola, hay prices are better than cereal grain prices right now," Andre adds.
They credit well-timed rains, rich soil and heavy fertilization for their ability to produce prize-winning alfalfa. They test their soil regularly, applying potassium, phosphorus and sulfur as needed.
They take three cuttings per year from a combination of owned and rented land, with each cutting spaced about 30 days apart. The Greniers cut at prebud stage when scissor-cut samples indicate the RFV is approaching 180.
"If I shoot for 180 and it's rained on a little, I still have a chance of harvesting hay with a 150 to 160 RFV," says Andre.
Using a bidirectional tractor with mower-conditioners in the front and the rear, the Greniers cut two 18'-wide swaths.
"We can cover a lot of ground and cut a lot of alfalfa when the time is right," he says.
Depending on humidity, the hay is dry enough to harvest in three to six days. It's then put up in 3 x 3 x 8' bales that weigh about 800 lbs.
The Greniers entered the contest's commercial hay class. When they were named grand champions, Donald Joppru of Thief River Falls, MN, became the winner of that class. Second and third went to Brian Hupalo, Dauphin, Manitoba, and William and Robert Reuter, Bouse, AZ.
Mark Steffensmeier, Bloomington, WI, won the commercial baleage class. Clyde and Belinda Jones, Marionville, MO, took second, with Joshua Kamps, Darlington, WI, placing third.
John Winkelman, Watertown, WI, submitted the sample that topped the dairy division's hay class.
Karl and Barb Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI, and Rheal Simon, Notre Dame, Manitoba, placed second and third, respectively.
Mark Oberski, Ruth, MI, took top honors in the dairy division's haylage class. Second place went to Killian Bros., Independence, WI; third place, to John Winkelman, Watertown, WI.
Roger VanHuizen, Muscoda, WI, earned top honors in the dairy division's new corn silage class. Second and third went to Dave Bolin, Clarksville, IA, and Horning Farms, Manchester, MI, respectively.
Champion first-time entrant was Albert Depcinski, Cass City, MI.
The World's Forage Analysis Superbowl is sponsored by AgSource Cooperative Services/ CRI, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, World Dairy Expo, Holstein World and Hay & Forage Grower.