Two Panhandle Farms Recognized through the 2015 Southeast Hay Contest
The Southeastern Hay Contest winners were announced this week. There were 375 total entries in the contest this year (185 in 2014). Hay and baleage samples were ranked based on their Relative Forage Quality score (RFQ). The contest was divided into seven categorizes: 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, and legume baleage.
Winners were announced during the opening ceremonies at the Sunbelt Ag Expo on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. In each of the seven categories, the highest three entries in terms of relative forage quality (RFQ) received cash prizes. First place received $125, second place $75, and third place $50. The highest overall RFQ score received the use of a new Massey Ferguson DM RK Series rotary rake for the 2016 hay production season, plus $1000 in cash! Top honors in the warm season perennial grass hay category also receive the use of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series Professional disc mower for the 2016 hay production season!
McGee Ranch in Idalou, TX was the 2015 overall SE Hay Contest winner with an entry of extremely high quality alfalfa hay that maxed out the RFQ index at 300.
The 2015 overall contest winner was McGee Ranch, Idalou, TX with an RFQ score over 300, which was from some extremely high quality alfalfa hay. The winner of the warm season perennial grass hay category was Yon Family Farms from Ridge Spring,SC who had an RFQ of 161.
Yon Family Farms, Ridge Spring, SC was the winner of the warm season perennial grass hay category with a Coastal Bermudagrass hay entry with an RFQ score of 161.
The Florida Panhandle was represented well by two perennial peanut hay operations. Justin Williams, Bonifay had the top Perennial Peanut Hay entry with an RFQ score of 179. Steve & Seth Basford, Grand Ridge had the 2nd place Perennial Peanut Hay entry with an RFQ score of 157.
Justin Williams, Bonifay had the top Perennial Peanut Hay entry with an RFQ score of 179.
Steve & Seth Basford, Grand Ridge had the 2nd place Perennial Peanut Hay entry with an RFQ score of 157.
2015 Southeast Hay Contest Winners
Weather is always a major limiting factor when attempting to produce high quality forage. This year, dry conditions in the middle part of the growing season caused drought to be a major limitation for many producers. Drought stress increased the incidence of high nitrate levels in the forage in 2015. In fact, 11.5% of the samples submitted to the contest were disqualified because nitrates were greater than 5000 ppm. Still, the forage quality this year was very high. The average relative forage quality (RFQ) was on par with or equal to the highest values in the Contest’s 11-year history. Good management can make a remarkable improvement in forage quality in both favorable and unfavorable weather conditions.
What is Relative Forage Quality (RFQ)?
In the past, hay quality prediction equations were based on the fiber concentration of the hay crop. However, forage crops can have similar fiber content yet have very different digestibility. For instance, Tifton 85 bermudagrass often has a higher fiber concentration than other bermudagrass varieties, yet it is more digestible. This improved digestibility results in enhanced animal performance, but is not reflected using traditional forage testing methods. The Relative Forage Quality index was developed by the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin to predict the fiber digestibility and animal intake of harvested crops. Since 2003, hundreds of warm season samples have been used to refine the RFQ equation for bermudagrass and other warm season forages. Currently, all forage sample results from the UGA Feed and Forage Testing Lab in Athens contain an estimate of Relative Forage Quality. This value is a single, easy to interpret number that improves producer understanding of a forage’s nutritive quality and helps in establishing a fair market value for the product.
How can Relative Forage Quality help you?
Relative Forage Quality allows hay producers to easily categorize and price hay lots based on relative quality. Producers can purchase hay lots depending on its end use. For example, there is little need to feed high-quality hay to livestock that could easily utilize poorer quality forage. Hay with an RFQ of 115-130 can be fed to maintain beef cow-calf pairs, hay with an RFQ of 125-150 is adequate for stocker cattle or young growing replacement heifers, and hay with an RFQ of 140-160 is suitable for dairy cattle in the first three months of lactation. It is also easy to see that Relative Forage Quality could provide the framework for a quality hay marketing system. For example, hay with a RFQ of 155 could conceptually be labeled “premium” hay, while hay with an RFQ of 105 could be labeled “fair.” This simple system could allow producers to price hay consistently and fairly across harvest maturity, fertilization regimes, or plant species (i.e. bermudagrass, bahiagrass, perennial peanut, or tall fescue).
Source: Dennis Hancock, UGA Extension Forage Specialist and SE Hay Contest Chairman