An alfalfa hay sample submitted by Lee Gilmore of Seldom Rest Farm, Pulaski, Tenn., had the highest relative forage quality (RFQ) in this year’s Southeastern Hay Contest presented by Massey Ferguson. A total of 328 samples were entered in this year’s contest, and the winners were announced Tuesday morning at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga.

In total, awards were doled out in seven different categories of hay types (see table below). In each of the categories, the three highest RFQ samples captured cash prizes for the entrants.

For their highest overall RFQ entry, Gilmore will receive their choice of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series disc mower or RK Series rotary rake for use during the 2018 hay production season plus a $1,000 cash prize.

Nitrates an issue

“Weather is always a major factor when attempting to produce high-quality forage,” said Dennis Hancock, extension forage specialist for the University of Georgia and supervisor for the contest. “This year, wet conditions early and dry conditions late in the growing season proved to be a major limitation for many producers. Drought stress late in the season increased the incidence of high-nitrate levels in the 2017 forage, and 11.5 percent of the submitted samples were disqualified because nitrates were greater than 5,000 parts per million,” he noted.

According to Hancock, forage quality this year was very high, but the weather challenges caused the average RFQ to be down slightly from previous years. Still, the winning entries were similar to or greater than record-winning values during the contest’s 13-year history.

“Good management can make a remarkable improvement in forage quality during both favorable and unfavorable weather conditions,” Hancock said.

In conjunction with this year’s hay contest, Massey Ferguson teamed with Hancock to produce a series of videos that explain what is needed to make high-quality hay.

For additional information, visit the contest website.