Klaas Van der Ploeg packs his bunkers with two big tractors, and insists that his workers drive on the silage non-stop between loads.

“They've got to pack, pack and pack some more,” says Van der Ploeg, of Ithaca, MI.

Fast harvesting and persistent packing are two keys to quality silage production, he says. Last year, he used an inoculant on corn silage for the first time, and good weather helped produce an exceptional corn crop.

“We had nice corn with good ears on it,” he says. “If you don't start out with good corn, you probably won't have the best-quality silage.”

His 2003 silage was indeed the best. A sample of it, collected from a bunker earlier this year, topped the 2004 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl. His dairy, Van der Ploeg Holsteins, was named superbowl grand champion during last month's World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI.

The winning hybrid was Mycogen 2D421, a 95-day Roundup Ready silage hybrid. The silage tested 33.7% dry matter, 25.9% ADF and 37.2% NDF, with 73.6% NDF digestibility. Its calculated milk production per ton was 4,264 lbs.

This is the first year Van der Ploeg has entered the forage quality contest. A Netherlands native, he and his wife, Mares, have been dairying in the U.S. for 14 years. Their 1,490-cow herd currently has a rolling herd average of 30,045 lbs of milk.

They grow and harvest their own forages, using a 3¾4” theoretical length of chop and a crop processor for corn silage. The forage portion of their TMRs is normally 55% corn silage and 45% haylage.

When Van der Ploeg was named the overall superbowl winner, Dykeman & Sons Dairy, Fultonville, NY, became champion of the corn silage class. Dave DeKam, Falmouth, MI, placed second, and Jon Merrell, Wolcot, NJ, finished third.

The Dykemans' silage tested 32.6% dry matter, 7.8% protein, 23.5% ADF and 34.9% NDF. Its NDF digestibility was 72.4%, and its potential milk production per ton was 4,299 lbs.

Familiar names are prevalent among the other 2004 class winners, most notably the Kamps family of Darlington, WI. Parents Dan and Ruth, perennial finalists and overall winners in 2000, won the commercial baleage class. Their sons, Joshua and Jacob, finished second and third, respectively.

The winning entry tested 26% crude protein, 19.2% ADF and 21.4% NDF. Its NDF digestibility was 59.1%, its relative feed value (RFV) score was 321, and its relative forage quality (RFQ) score was 358.

Joshua Kamps, overall grand champion in 1997, was this year's commercial hay winner. His parents finished second, and Paul Peterson, American Fork, UT, took third for the second year in a row. Rick Weber, last year's overall winner from Madison, MN, came in sixth.

Joshua's hay sample tested 26.1% crude protein, 16.9% ADF and 21.3% NDF. Its NDF digestibility was 55.7%, and its RFV and RFQ scores were 331 and 351, respectively.

Karl and Bob Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI, topped the dairy hay class. They won it last year, too, and were overall grand champions in 1996.

This year's entry tested 28.1% crude protein, 20.3% ADF and 24.6% NDF. Its NDF digestibility was 50.7%, its RFV score was 276, and its RFQ was 287.

Second place went to Dale Stamp Farms, Marlette, MI, and Jeanquart Farms, Casco, WI, repeated last year's third-place finish.

The dairy haylage winner was Hunts Valley Dairy, Independence, WI, followed by Robert Parrell, Belmont, WI, and Seven Star Farm, Fort Atkinson, WI. The winning haylage sample tested 21.1% crude protein, 25.8% ADF and 29.5% NDF. Its NDF digestibility was 56.5%, its RFV was 217 and its RFQ was 249.

The champion first-time entrant was Russ Beck, Freeville, NY.

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