Leanne Dillard (AU), Katie Payne (VT), Lisa Baxter (UGA), Uttam Saha (UGA), and Doug Mayo (UF)

The 19th year of the Southeastern Hay Contest featured 468 entries from eight states in the region.  The contest featured nine different categories of forages in 2023.  Four Florida Farms placed in the top three of four categories.  Bill Conrad, Malone, Florida placed third in alfalfa with an RFQ score of 249, and third in the Other Legume Category with an RFQ score of 228 for his perennial peanut hay.  Darling Farms, McAlpin, Florida placed first in the Other Legume Category with and RFQ of 247 for their perennial peanut hay.  Dalton Dennis, Pensacola, Florida won second place in the Other Legume Hay Category with his perennial peanut hay with an RFQ score of 232.  George Fisher of G&S Farms, Chipley, Florida won second place in the Legume Baleage Category with his perennial peanut baleage.  In addition to the farm recognitions, Mark Mauldin, UF/IFAS Extension Washington County was recognized as the Florida Extension Agent that submitted the most samples on behalf of his producers.

2023 Alfalfa Winners in SE Hay Contest

The three gentlemen to the right were the 2023 Alfalfa Winners in SE Hay Contest.  From left to right:  Mountainside Farm – 2nd place, Bill Conrad – 3rd place (holding plaque), and Beeson Farm – 1st place, . Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

2023 Other Legume Winners of the SE Hay Contest.

Three Florida Farms took the top honors of the Other Legume Category in 2023 with their perennial peanut hay.  The plaque holders were from left:  Dalton Dennis-2nd Place, Bill Conrad-3rd place, and  Darling Farms-1st place.  Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

2023 Grass-Legume Mixed Hay winners of the SE Hay Contest.

2023 Grass-Legume Mixed Hay winners of the SE Hay Contest. From the left were John Carter-1st Place, and Chester Farms-3rd Place.  Credit: Doug Mayo

2023 Legume Baleage Winners

2023 Legume Baleage Winners of the SE Hay Contest. From left were:  Yon Family Farms-3rd Place, G&S Farms- 2nd Place, and Walters Farms-1st Place.  Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

2023 Top Extension Agents from Florida and Georgia.

2023 Top Extension Agent Submissions came from from Mark Mauldin-Florida and Hailey Partain-Georgia. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

SE Hay Contest logoLike many recent years, 2023 had many challenges for our hay and baleage producers. From higher than average rainfall during the spring to drought conditions in the summer, all while fertilizer and other input costs continue to be high. The Southeast Hay Contest (SEHC) has been recognizing high quality hay and baleage production in the Southeast for almost 20 years. Over the years, this contest has gained wide acceptance among the forage producers of the region.  Beginning with 100-200 entries during its first 5 years, the number of entries in the contest reached 468 in 2023 breaking all past records.  For perspective, the World Forage Analysis Superbowl, which is held in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, had 300 entries in 2022.  The Southeastern Hay Contest is now the largest forage quality contest in the US!

The SEHC was developed by Extension Agents for forage producers in the Southeast. Their involvement was pivotal to the success of the program during its development around 20 years ago and will continue to play an important role in the future. Extension Agents not only promote the contest, but also use it in education and outreach throughout their counties and regions. The SEHC continues to fulfill its mission to bring awareness to the importance of hay testing and of managing livestock feed needs through nutritive value determination.

The SEHC is celebrating its 19th year with 468 entries coming from eight states across the Southeast region. New this year, the contest was expanded from 7 to 9 categories that producers can enter the forage samples. These are Warm-season perennial grass hay; Warm-season annual grass hay; Alfalfa hay; All other legume hay; Cool-season perennial grass hay; Grass-legume mixed hay; Cool-season annual grass hay; Grass baleage; and Legume baleage. Despite producer challenges, we saw some of the highest relative forage quality (RFQ) values ever. The samples are ranked based on RFQ and the top 3 entries in each category receive a cash prize. The overall winner also receives a choice of the use of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series disc mower or RK Series rotary rake for the 2024 hay production season plus $2,000 in cash!

2023 Overall Winner of the SE Hay Contest

Mountainside Farm, Taylorsville, North Carolina was the 2023 Overall Winner of the SE Hay Contest. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

This year’s category winners are in the table below. The 2023 top RFQ was in the alfalfa hay category from Beeson Farms from Climax, NC with an index breaking 327. Beeson Farms won the Grand Prize last year (also alfalfa hay) and therefore is ineligible to win the Grand Prize in 2023. As a result, the Grand Prize goes to Mountainside Farm from Taylorsville, NC from the alfalfa hay category with an RFQ of 298.

2023 SE Hay Contest Winners Table

The SEHC continues to increase its reach and strengthen its commitment to education. We will continue to lead a sponsored session on forage establishment at the American Forage and Grassland Conference, organize local hay quality workshops, and much more! Again, we would like to acknowledge the efforts of our Extension agents, who engage producers and collect samples, and our many category sponsors, as well as our title sponsor Massey Ferguson. We encourage you to continue the tradition and “prove your hay is the best” by submitting samples to next year’s contest. Submissions are open year-round, check www.sehaycontest.com for more information, or contact your local county agent or forage Extension specialist.