Blessed with an abundant quantity of hay and forage, Alabama’s farmers are now on a mission for quality – a revolution that’s changing the industry – with competitions and soil tests increasing, growers are discovering just what’s in their hay.
At this year’s Southeastern Hay Contest during the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga., hay samples were submitted from the 13 Southeastern states. A grand total of 185 entries were vying for the top prize in six categories. The Relative Forage Quality (RFQ), which ranks forages according to nutritional quality, was used to determine the victors. Alabama’s own Leavelle Farms in Buhl, Ala. was among the winners.
“We were very excited to find out,” says Clyde Leavelle, who’s been growing haylage for the past five years.
“It’s a motivational thing to continue to follow the recommendations of the forage specialist for our region regarding fertilizing and soil pH,” says Leavelle. “It also reaffirms that the people at the extension really try to get the best information and resources to us.”
By working closely with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, farmers can eliminate guesswork when it comes to quality. For example, Dr. Jennifer Johnson, forage specialist at Auburn, recommends a soil test annually, since pH levels greatly impact forage performance.
“Unless you test, it’s just a guess,” goes Johnson’s mantra.
Leavelle’s farm has received high forage-quality values in the past and improved with each passing year. Coming home as a champion is a milestone worth celebrating, but the owners aren’t the only ones benefiting from the victory.
“We’re pleased because a lot of what we grow goes to our cattle, and it’s helped us have healthier cows and calves,” says Leavelle.
“Hay quality is very important, and more farmers should be participating in hay contests and conducting tests to improve the quality of their forage,” emphasizes Nate Jaeger, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Hay and Forage Committee. “If you have better quality forage, you don’t have to feed as much of it, which is important to your bottom line.”
With these best practices in place – and the focus on forage quality – forage will no longer be a mystery