Wyoming growers took top honors in the 2006 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl.

Ervin Gara III, Torrington, was named grand champion. David Hinman of Hardrock Farms, Wheatland, took grand champion first-time entrant. And the top three placers in the commercial hay division are all from Wyoming. They were honored during the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI, early last month.

It all proves a point that Scott Keith, livestock and forage program manager of the Wyoming Business Council, wanted to make. “I thought Wyoming could stand pretty well in terms of the quality of hay we produce,” says Keith, who had budgeted business council money to enter state fair hay show winners in the superbowl contest.

Gara's winning entry, for example, was a fourth-cutting Syngenta NK variety that tested 25% crude protein, 23.3% NDF and 55.78% NDF digestibility with relative feed value and relative forage quality scores of 286 and 321, respectively.

“We've got a lot of really good-quality hay in the state of Wyoming,” Keith says.

“It has good digestibility,” adds Bill Reed, third-place commercial hay winner from Casper. The state's high altitude, warm days and cold nights produce quality hay, he explains.

In Gara's area, hay started gaining ground over sugar beet acreage a little over a decade ago, when the sugar beet industry took a downturn.

“A lot of those guys started going to hay,” he says. “But I raise hay because I know how to grow it; I concentrate on one crop.”

Gara, raised on a 10-acre hobby farm in Colorado, started his career early.

“When I was eight years old I rode my bike down to my neighbor's and asked for a job to bale hay,” he remembers. “My mom had a fit.”

Twenty years later he was selling seed for Pioneer Hi-Bred in Virginia and decided to follow his parents to Wyoming.

Today Gara and his crew bale close to 15,000 tons of alfalfa, selling all of his dairy-quality product to one of the largest dairies in Colorado.

All of his 3,000 acres of alfalfa are irrigated and he bales at night to take advantage of the dew. He custom harvests another 500 acres.

“We try to cut at 32 to 35 days, but it depends on Mother Nature,” he says.

Besides the weather, finding good labor is a big challenge. “Finding people who want to bale hay at night is tough. We go out at 9 at night and sometimes I walk in the door at 6 in the morning, sleep two hours and I'm back out to change the water. It's hard.”

His current crew, he adds, can take a lot of credit for the quality of his hay. They cut and rake at the right times to produce a leafy product with fine stems.

His most dependable source of labor — his dad, Ervin Gara Jr. — took top honors in the commercial hay category with another fourth-cutting NK variety. Kellie Hinman, Wheatland, WY, placed second and Bill Reed, Casper, WY, took third.

Top commercial baleage winners include: 1st — Terry Mergen, Bloomington, WI; 2nd — Scott Mayer, Windsor, IL; and 3rd — Joshua Kamps, Darlington, WI.

Dairy haylage winners are: 1st — Peter Juengel, Grand Blanc, MI; 2nd — Karl and Barb Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI; and 3rd — McClellen Farms Inc., Delavan, WI.

Dairy hay winners include: 1st — Mike Beun, Waterloo, WI; 2nd — Karl and Barb Wogsland; and 3rd — Tim and Kenny Deters, Effingham, IL.

Dairy corn silage (non-BMR) winners are: 1st — Autumn Vista Dairy, McBain, MI; 2nd — Luke Haywood, Hastings, MI; and 3rd — Steve Benthem, also of McBain.

BMR dairy corn silage top placers are: 1st — Pine Tree Dairy Farm, Rittman, OH; 2nd — Steiner Farms, Sterling, OH; 3rd — Sharo-Dan Farm, Dalton, OH.

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