Wyoming maintains forage successWritten by Christy Martinez
The 2011 World Forage Analysis Superbowl, held in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisc. each October, saw a rise in participation this year, with nearly 400 contestants from 23 states competing for a chance at over $23,000 in prize money for their forage entries in the 28th annual contest.
Historically, Wyoming contestants have been very successful with the hay they send back east, and 2011 was no exception. Kellie Hinman of Wheatland took the title of Champion Forage Producer over all the forage entries.
“She had the single best entry out of all the categories, which include silage, dairy hay, baleage and commercial hay,” says Wyoming Business Council Agribusiness Division Crop and Forage Program Manager Donn Randall, who took Wyoming’s hay samples to the contest, along with Big Horn County Extension Educator Dallen Smith.
In addition to being recognized as superior to all other entries, the Hinmans’ hay also gained a lot of attention at Wyoming’s display tent at the event, as Randall took a fourth-cutting sample straight out of the baler to Wisconsin.
“We had tremendous foot traffic through our tent, and a lot of international interest, especially from China,” says Randall. “We visited with seven different delegations that want to try to cut out the port exporters, and they want us to double compress hay, put it on a rail car and ship to the port.”
Randall says he visited with one group from northeast China that pays $550 per ton to have hay delivered to them overseas.
“They’re really looking for a way to cut out the middle person,” comments Randall.
Smith adds that he and Randall were able to visit with people from all over the U.S., as well as Canada and countries as far away as Jordan.
Adding to Hinman’s victory, Bappe Farm of Riverton was named Champion First Time Entrant for the show, and Danko Farms of Powell won top honors for their grass hay, which was a new category this year.
“The grass hay sample has to be at least 75 percent grass, so this year I sent five samples of alfalfa and five grass samples,” says Randall of the new category, which had 43 entries.
Hardrock Farms of Wheatland won champion in the commercial hay category, while Danko Farms took third and Bappe Farm took fifth. Hardrock Farms also took fifth with their grass hay entry.
Of his first trip to the hay show in Wisconsin, Smith says the region’s dairymen have all the latest technology and many innovative inventions.
“For someone who wants to build a new barn, update a facility or buy new machinery, the Expo would be a good place to learn about all the new technology all in one place,” he says.
The World Forage Analysis Superbowl invites growers from across the U.S. and Canada to send their best samples in either dairy or commercial divisions.
Commercial entries are judged on lab analysis (70 percent) and visual judging (30 percent). Visual judging consists of analyzing the color, texture, maturity and leafiness, depending on the category, and AgSource Laboratories, in Bonduel, Wisc. tests the samples.
At the Wyoming statewide level, Randall says this year’s hay show was impacted by the fact that many Fremont County hay producers who usually participate are having a hard time keeping hay in the field at all, much less taking the time to enter samples in the hay show.
In addition to overseas interest, Randall says high demand for Wyoming hay comes from the Midwestern states.
“Last year David Hinman sent 75 semi loads to the Amish dairy cattle and dairy goat producers in Kalona, Iowa,” says Randall. “Nutritionists say that Wyoming hay has twice the value in nutrients than hay produced in the Midwest. That market looks for good green hay with lots of leaves that smells good and has good palatability and good digestibility, which describes almost all the hay Wyoming produces.”
Randall predicts hay prices will stay high for another two years.
“Nationwide, we’re down four to five percent in alfalfa acreage from last year. That, combined with the drought in the South and high commodity prices, will keep good hay demand. I encourage producers who have additional hay to bale to put it up in squares,” he says. “There’s a $40 to $50 per ton premium on square bales – mainly because of trucking.”
Smith says one thing he was able to bring back from the trip was knowledge about how producers can put up marketable hay.
“If they’re going to market hay on an ongoing basis they need to package it right, and it’s more profitable to put it up in large square bales because that’s what the hay buyer wants,” he says, adding that there is a small market for small square bales.