Farmers and ranchers in 11 Western states are encouraged to enter samples of their best alfalfa hay, standard corn silage or brown midrib (BMR) corn silage in the 2012 World Ag Expo Forage Challenge, presented by Mycogen Seeds.

Up to $18,000 in cash prizes, sponsored by Lallemand Animal Health, will be awarded based on forage lab analyses and visual evaluations of entries by dairy nutrition and forage production experts.

"With today's high grain prices, it's more important than ever to produce high-quality forages for dairy rations," says Greg Cannon, Mycogen Seeds forage product marketing specialist. "Mycogen Seeds is pleased to support this program to recognize and encourage high-quality forage growers."

The contest is administered in part by the University of California, Davis, which coordinates sample testing and contest judging and educates producers about the benefits of producing high- quality forages.

"While high yields are very important for profitable hay and silage production, attaining high quality is a close second," says Dan Putnam, UC Davis Extension forage specialist. "Hay and forage quality has improved substantially over the past 40 years in major dairy regions, where dairy producers and cash hay producers have discovered the impacts of improved forage quality on milk production."

The cost is $25 per entry. All forage samples must be submitted to UC Davis for judging by Dec. 15. Entry forms and full contest rules can be found at Winners will be announced Feb. 14 at World Ag Expo.