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Hay Production

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.

Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Alfalfa shines again in Forage Expo
Wheatland - At the 25th anniversary of the World’s Forage Analysis Superbowl in Madison, Wisc., Wyoming entries garnered five of the top six placings in the commercial hay category.
    Hay entered by the Hinman family of Wheatland took first in the division, while the Schlenker Ranch, Inc. of Meeteetse took third, the Kossert brothers of Casper took fourth, Ervin Gara of Torrington placed fifth and Wambolt Cattle Co. of Torrington took sixth.
    According to contest officials, there were 241 entries this year, 59 more than last year, in six categories – dairy hay, dairy haylage, standard corn silage, brown midrib (BMR) corn silage, commercial hay and commercial baleage. First-place prize for each category is one year’s free use of a forage harvesting or feeding piece of equipment or $2,500 to 5,000 in coupons toward purchase of new equipment.
    “We had entries from 24 states and the bulk of states where dairy production is significant,” says University of Wisconsin agronomist and contest organizer Dan Undersander. “On quality, we had some of the highest relative forage quality numbers that we’ve seen in a long time.”
    Commercial samples are judged 70 percent on lab analysis and 30 percent on visual appraisal. “The visual judging includes an assessment of color, texture, maturity and leafiness, according to category,” notes Undersander.  “We want to make sure each sample is handled in a typical fashion for its category.”
    Scott Keith of the Wyoming Business Council, who accompanies Wyoming’s entries to Wisconsin each year, says it was an excellent show, with more people in attendance than ever. “I had a busier display this year than I’ve ever had, with an unbelievable the number of people stopping by,” he says, adding he handed out over 450 business cards.
    Dave Hinman says the contest is a great opportunity to promote Wyoming hay, and after last year’s show he shipped 25 loads of hay back to Kentucky and Ohio.
    This year wasn’t the first the Hinmans have experienced success at the show. In the last two years they’ve won the division for first-time entries and last year received second place in the commercial hay division.
    “I grew up in Nebraska and farmed with my dad and brother, and we didn’t know how to put up quality alfalfa,” says Dave of his early haying years. “I came up here near Wheatland and alfalfa was a different story. I learned how to put up dairy quality hay through correct timing and moisture.”
    “We start cutting right at bud and try to cut every 28 to 30 days after that, depending on weather,” he explains, adding that baling quality hay relates mostly to timing. “Mother Nature has to help you along the way with the right heat and rain and dew.”
    Dave says they get all the hay completely dry, then bale with dew moisture and no stem moisture at all. “That makes the leaf retention better and it stores a lot better,” he says.
    Today the Hinmans produce primarily large square bales of alfalfa for the dairy market, but Dave’s wife Teri also bales some small squares for the local horse market. Dave and Teri’s daughter Kellie recently returned to the farm after college in Nebraska, and she now helps with the family’s hay and cattle operation and has also begun breeding and selling club calves off the ranch.
    Dave says this fall the dairy hay market for alfalfa testing over 180 is exceptional, because there isn’t much around. “Anything over 180 is bringing a $1 to $1.20 per point, depending on where it’s tested. Testing is the critical thing because there are a lot of variables with the places you test,” he says, noting that forage testing is one thing that needs to be standardized.
    This spring some of the Hinman’s stands are due for reseeding, and Dave says he’s sticking with the same varieties he’s used for many years. “I was talked into planting the one I’m winning with now, and it won the Forage Superbowl in the late 1990s. It’s a Garst 630 variety, and that and the 631 variety are really leafy, so those are the two I’m still entering, and they test really well,” he says, adding that he tries to produce something that will test well and also be really leafy and fine-stemmed.
    Of entering the forage contest for the last several years, Dave says competition is a thing in which he’s been involved since grade school. “I began by entering contests with produce when I was young, and I competed through 4-H. I like contests and choosing the best product I have and seeing how we stand up to the industry,” he says. In addition to the forage contest he also enters a national corn yield competition each year.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..