By Brad Haire
The Sunbelt Ag Expo Darrell Williams Research Farms is one of the region’s top places to highlight forage research in South Georgia. The Expo hayfields provide multiple purposes, such as a classroom for the University of Georgia Extension agents’ trainings, field days for farmers, and industry events and projects.
On-going research trials in progress on the Sunbelt farm address basic forage needs and novel weed and insect management strategies, which growers can use to improve their operations and profitability.
The Expo’s forage demonstration grounds are considered one of the best in the region. On each of the three days of the show, multiple brands of hay cutters run side by side, along with tedders, balers, and rakes, providing a detailed comparison of how each piece of equipment performs.
“On the two-acre block right inside Gate 4, we have six of the most popular Bermuda grass varieties that are grown in Georgia. If you’re considering planting a new Bermuda grass or just want to see how your field stacks up, this is an excellent place to do so. We have Alicia and Coastal down on one end all the way to Tifton 85 down on the other end,” said Lisa Baxter, UGA Extension forage specialist. “This is the best place to come see these varieties on a big scale for what they could look like on your farm at this site.”
Baxter also said UGA Extension, Expo and RW Griffin are once again collaborating on research at the site.
For example, “This season we’re looking at a new product called Biopath in comparison to (RW Griffin) tried-and-true 18-0-0-3,” she said.
Once again, a major draw for the Expo’s opening day ceremonies will be the official announcement of the winners and awards of the Southeastern Hay Contest.
The program, Baxter said, is a partnership between industry, the growers and Extension from Georgia, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
“We’ve expanded our categories this year to nine. So you’re going see some annual grass and grass legume categories that you’ve never seen before. So there’s even more opportunities to win. We have cash prizes available for each individual category, as well as an increased prize for our overall winner, which includes a year-lease of a Massey Ferguson, either disc mower or rotary rake,” she said.
The SEHC award categories are:
- Warm Season Perennial Grass Hay (Bermudagrass, bahiagrass, etc.)
- Alfalfa Hay
- All Other Legume Hay
- Cool Season Perennial Grass Hay (Tall Fescue, Orchardgrass, etc.)
- Grass Legume Hay (Legume/Grass mixtures)
- Cool Season Annual Grass Hay
- Warm Season Annual Grass Hay
- Grass Baleage (High moisture grass forage ensiled in wrapped bales)
- Legume Baleage (High moisture legume or grass/legume forage ensiled in wrapped bales)
- Grand Prize (Highest overall RFQ)
The hay contest samples are ranked based on RFQThe RFQ score measures different forages relative to their overall nutritive value, or their total digestible nutrients, and predicted dry matter intake. RFQ can help hay producers categorize and price hay lots based on the relative quality. Livestock producers can use the value to balance supplemental diet based on the quality of the hay.