The analysis results are made available to the producers and the Extension agents about seven to 10 days after the samples are submitted. Display samples from the winning entries will also be available during the show for visitors to see for themselves what high quality hay should look like.

The contest rules require that hay must be taken from fields with a minimum maturity or re-growth of at least 25 days to ensure fair competition. Hay from fields with less than 25 days of growth is disqualified.

Forage samples for analysis and contest entry must be collected using a hay probe.

Also, forage samples with more than 5,000 parts per million of nitrate on a dry matter basis will be disqualified. Dry hay samples with more than 18 percent moisture will also be disqualified, but there are no moisture requirements for entries in the baleage categories.

The contest remains popular among hay producers. In last year’s contest, 210 entries were received from throughout the Southeast.

However, forage quality took a dip during 2010. The overall average RFQ for entries submitted last year was just under 103. This was the lowest average RFQ since the contest began in 2004.

One of the main reasons for the decline in overall quality was due to a large number of bermudagrass entries in the contest last year.  In general, bermudagrass hay quality is lower than that produced by other forage species, especially when nitrogen fertilizer is lacking and when intervals between cuttings extend to eight weeks or longer.

Extension forage agronomists also noted that growing conditions during 2010 were challenging. For instance, hay harvesting was often delayed due to sporadic but frequent afternoon showers. Also, summer temperatures last year were hot. The high temperatures and humid nighttime weather also contributed to the drop in forage quality.

Here are the winners from last year’s contest:

With an RFQ score of 124, Cherry Farms of Walton County, Ga., produced the highest quality warm season perennial grass hay. There were 138 entries in this category and RFQ scores ranged from a low of 49 to the high of 124.

An RFQ score of 204 gave Vickers Still Farm of Coffee County, Ga., the winning entry in the perennial peanut-alfalfa hay category. There were 19 entries in this category and RFQ scores ranged from 105 to 204.

An entry from Duncan Legacy Farm in Carroll County, Ga., was the winner among 12 entries in the cool season perennial grass hay category. This farm’s hay sample had an RFQ score of 125.

Trice Farm from Upson County, Ga., had the winning entry in the mixed and annual grass hay category. This farm’s entry had an RFQ score of 209.

In the grass baleage category, Verner Farms of Morgan County, Ga., had the winning entry with an RFQ score of 192.

The legume baleage category was won by Ron Prokop of Walton County, Fla., with an RFQ score of 112.