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The secrets behind the winners of the World Forage Analysis Superbowl

Forage Superbowl Published on 01 July 2013

Is your sample ready for this year’s competition?

If you’ve considered entering the contest, we thought you’d want to know the secrets of past winners.

World Forage Analysis Superbowl

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Ben Atwater
2012 First-time Entrant
Winner: Atwater Farms

Barker, New York
Owner/Operator: Ben and Seth Atwater
Operation Size: 950 milking cows, 700 acres corn silage

 

Ben Atwater, from Atwater Farms, candidly states, “Nothing spurred me [to enter the competition], in fact I didn’t even enter, but that is a funny story.

One day I got a phone call from my Mycogen dealer. He asked me if I had gotten any surprising letters in the mail lately. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

Then, next day, I opened my mail and got a letter that said I was a finalist in the World Forage Superbowl competition.” Ben says his seed salesman, Reed Doody, had entered a forage sample for him.

Ben admits, “I was very excited to win the first-time entrant in the BMR category. It makes it all the better that we didn’t even know we had a sample entered.

We didn’t pick our best field, or pick a sample from our best load, or do anything special. We just did what we had to do to strive toward our goal of putting up the best-quality forage we possibly can.

We make sure all the kernels are processed, the length of cut is where it needs to be, preservative is applied, it is packed properly and covered with an oxygen barrier and plastic. It was very reassuring that we are doing a good job when we win an award such as this for what are normal practices on an annual basis.”

When asked what advice he might have for first-time entrants to the competition, Ben opines, “My advice would be to make sure every acre of forage you grow, whether corn or hay, grow it as though it is a competition every day.

We are producing top-quality milk and want to have healthy, profitable cows. ... At the end of the day, we are not growing this forage to win a competition; we are growing it to feed our cows. We want healthy, high-producing cows to help us keep our business profitable.

So with that end in mind, make every load and every acre be the best-quality forage possible. With the amount we have invested in these crops, we can’t afford not to.”

2012 Alfalfa Grass
Winner: Dee’s Dairy

Morgan, Utah
Owner/Operators: Dee Waldron (wife, Sherry; sons, Aaron and Alex)
Operation Size: 600 acres alfalfa, along with barley and corn

The competition in 2012 was the first time Dee’s Dairy had entered the contest. Their long-time herd nutritionist, Barry Crosby, had always been impressed with their alfalfa quality, and he encouraged them to enter the contest.

Dee Waldron states, “Our entry was last-minute, but it was exciting to compete with other growers who strive for quality. We would definitely encourage other growers to participate.”

Sherry Waldron says, “This was our first year, but we look forward to competing in the future. This contest gives growers an opportunity to talk with and exchange information with a large group of people striving for the same success.”

As far as advice for first-time participants goes, Sherry’s is: “Just do it.”

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Diane Pounder
2012 Grass Hay
Winner: Pounder Brothers Inc.

Delavan, WisconsinOwner/Operator: John T. Pounder
Operation Size: 300 total acres combining hay, corn, soybeans and wheat

 

John and Diane Pounder discovered that for many years, some of their hay lots were testing much higher than the winners of the World Forage Superbowl, and that’s when they decided to throw their hats in the ring. But the entries haven’t been without challenges.

As John states, “It is very difficult to compete with hay producers in the Western states where they have near-ideal conditions to harvest high-quality hay every cutting – for example, irrigated, mountain deserts with very low humidity.

This allows almost complete control of when you water, when you cut and when you harvest. In the Midwest, we have more challenges with weather and growing conditions.

It is not to say these challenges cannot be overcome; it is to say it takes a great deal of management to consistently harvest high-quality hay in the Midwest.”

Pounder also recognizes that not every cutting and not every year produces the best-quality hay. Nonetheless, it challenges and deserves a grower’s best efforts.

Pounder notes, “I would advise any entrant to this contest to consider this contest as a challenge to put your best foot forward and continue to develop a management plan to grow and harvest high-quality hay whenever possible.”

2012 Dairy Corn BMR
Winner: Co-Vista Holsteins

Arcade, New York
Owner/Operator: Brian George
Operation Size: 360 milking cows, 300 replacement heifers, 1,000 acres forage

Brian George, at Co-Vista Holsteins, was a second-year entrant. He states, “I always saw the ads for the World Forage Superbowl competition, and I thought how cool it would be to win.

I also saw in past competitions there were other western New York finalists, so I knew it was possible.” His advice to new entrants would be, “Hey, you never know. If you think it’s good enough to win, so might someone else.”

Brian says, “The thing I learned was to believe in myself, what I do and how I do it. And with a little luck and prayer, good things will come to you.”

2011 First-time Entrant
Winner: Bappe Farm

Riverton, Wyoming
Owner/Operator: Mark Bappe
Operation Size: 200 acres hay

Bappe Farm has entered hay samples for many years at the Wyoming local and state fair levels. Mark Bappe says his motivation was simple:

“I started doing it because I received free analysis, and that’s why I continue to do it.” From the local fairs, Donn Randall at the Wyoming Business Council entered a sample from Bappe Farm in the World Forage Analysis Superbowl.

Bappe states, “Over the years, I’ve experimented with many production variables, and I’m pretty much to the point of being able to know without a sample analysis whether or not it’s going to be ‘competitive.’

Nowadays, I try to put up every cutting of hay as a potential world-class hay entry, and as a result, my livestock eats very well. Additionally, the hay that we sell sells itself.”

For first-time entrants, Bappe advises, “Take a look at last year’s results at the World Forage competition. Analyze a sample of your entry before you take the time and expense to send it to Wisconsin.

Document what got you those good results and work to improve next year’s entry by changing one variable at a time.”

Bappe believes there are many hay producers consistently putting up product that would win the big shows, but they typically don’t take the time to enter.

He freely admits that he’s been fortunate enough to win because the people at his county extension office and the Wyoming Business Council have helped him with the legwork.

Bappe notes, “Improvement can only come with change, and knowing what to change is often the key to success.

And unless we change only one variable at a time, we may not know what really was the root cause of the improvement.”  FG

How to enter
For entry forms call (920) 336-4521 or visit this website.

A $25 fee provides entry into the contest for cash prizes and a detailed laboratory analysis of the sample.

Participants may submit multiple entries. Corn silage entries must be received by August 15, and all other entries must be received by September 5, 2013.

For online subscribers
Visit this website to check out a video describing how to take a forage sample.

Need help interpreting a forage test?
Your county extension agent or testing laboratory can help. Click here for an article explaining the process.

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