Arkansas has won a twelfth straight championship and it didn’t involve a football, basketball, track shoes, or even a razorback.
For this year’s Bermuda hay victor in the American Forage and Grassland Council hay competition, being part of the state effort to produce the best hay -- the Arkansas Quality Forage program –- is a family tradition.
“We have a generational history,” said Dan Henderson, of Decatur. “My dad was involved way back when they first started this program. He passed away in 2004, but I continued so I could keep up with what other folks were doing with their Bermuda and how they were getting the most quality out of it.”
Henderson’s father was the first Arkansas Quality Forage program grower of the year in 1998.
Last year, Henderson’s Greenfield sample came in fourth. “This is the first year I’ve been in the top three,” he said with a laugh. Henderson has about 200 acres and uses all of his hay for his beef operation.
To say his cattle are well-fed is an understatement, said Robert Seay, Benton County Extension staff chairman. “Where a relative feed quality score of 100 is roughly equal to full-bloom alfalfa, his entry scored 151. Not bad for beef cow hay!”
2012 was the first time the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council had hosted the contest and American Forage and Grassland Council national field tour. This year also marked the return of the top sample to northwest Arkansas, and another year’s peace of mind for Seay, who confessed to feeling a little pressure.
“A Maryland producer entered the most beautiful Bermuda hay sample I ever laid eyes on,” he said. “I immediately thought, ‘We’re gonna get our butts kicked!’”
However, when it came down to the analysis of nutritional value, “Arkansas growers ended up winning first, second and third,” Seay said. “I can quit sweating now.”
Jimmy Jarvis of Hiwasse was second with his Cherokee variety sample, and John Ginn’s Greenfield variety sample was third. In 12 years of competition, the Jarvis sample was only the second top-three finish for a seeded variety of Bermuda. All other winning entries were sprigged varieties.
Last year’s winner marked the first time the Bermuda title went to a grower outside northwest Arkansas, when Jamie Styles of Coal Hill won with a Genesis variety sample.
“We got it back this year,” Henderson said.
For more information about the Arkansas Quality Forage Contest, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.