Brian Johnson of McKenney, Va., grabbed the top spot of the 2020 Southeastern Hay Contest with an alfalfa sample scoring a whopping relative forage quality value of 268.
The contest is an educational partnership between 13 Southeast land-grant universities. Over the last 16 years, the program has encouraged producers to test their hay and refine Southeastern forage production practices. The contest is coordinated by Marcelo Wallau with the University of Florida, Lisa Baxter with the University of Georgia and Leanne Dillard with Auburn University.
McKenney entered the contest for the first time in 2020, and 2020 was his first year growing alfalfa.
"When we started out (with alfalfa) we took the advice of our Extension agent. You need to have a good base to start with. So, make sure your nutrients are right, all your lime and everything, your pH is correct before you start because trying to go back with it is hard," he said in an interview on the contest's Facebook page. "It takes a lot more time to manage alfalfa than other forages. You got to be willing to keep tabs on it regularly.
According to contest organizers, even with last year's pandemic-related disruptions, the 2020 contest had 370 entries submitted, or 10 shy of its record of 380 submissions in 2019. Samples came from Georgia, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The pandemic disrupted the contest's traditional award ceremony at Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition in Moultrie, Ga, which was postponed in October 2020. Winners for 2020 were announced at the American Forage and Grassland Council annual conference in Savannah, Ga., on Jan 5.
Producers can enter the SEHC in seven categories:
- Warm season perennial grass hay (bermudagrass, bahiagrass).
- Alfalfa hay.
- Perennial peanut hay.
- Perennial cool season grass (tall fescue, orchardgrass, etc.) hay.
- Mixed and annual grass hay.
- Grass baleage.
- Legume baleage.
The top three entries in each category receive a cash prize. As the overall winner, Johnson received a choice of the use of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series disc mower or RK Series rotary rake for the 2021 hay production season plus $1,000.
Organizers now plan for the 2021 contest and hope to get submission from all 13 states covered by it. To learn more, check with your local Extension agent or go to www.sehaycontest.com
The RFQ score measures different forages relative to their overall nutritive value, or their total digestible nutrients, and predicted dry matter intake. Developed by the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin, it is consider a good tool to compare forages, especially Southern forages.