The best hay in the Southeast can be seen at the Sunbelt Expo.

Extension forage agronomists from the Southeast are once again coordinating the 2011 Southeastern Hay Contest. The winning entries will be recognized at this year’s farm show.

The 2011 Southeastern Hay Contest exhibit will once again be located in the Bill Patten Beef Pavilion at location E-8 of the Expo exhibit grounds.

Six categories of hay and baleage are eligible for the contest. These include warm season perennial grass hay such as bermudagrass and bahiagrass; perennial peanut or alfalfa hay; cool season perennial grass hay such as tall fescue and orchardgrass; mixed, annual grass or other hay such as clover-fescue, clover-ryegrass, millet, or ryegrass alone; grass baleage which includes high moisture grass forage ensiled in wrapped bales; and legume baleage such as high moisture legume or legume-grass forage mixes ensiled in wrapped bales.

The hay entries will be judged using near infrared testing procedures by the University of Georgia Feed and Environmental Water Lab. The entries will be ranked using the Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) evaluation system to account for protein, energy and fiber digestibility.

RFQ can also be a marketing tool since it allows hay producers to categorize and price hay based on its overall quality. For instance, hay with an RFQ value of 155 or higher might be marketed as premium quality hay.

If necessary, ties in RFQ scores for the contest will be broken based on a visual evaluation of the hay samples by forage specialists from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

The contest is open to any forage producer from the Southeast. Entries must be submitted by the farm where the forage was grown. The entry forms are also signed by county or regional Extension agents to verify that contest rules have been followed. Local Extension agents will also have information on entering the contest next year.