Three winners of the 2011 World Ag Expo (WAE) Forage Challenge credit high quality seed as a cornerstone to producing high quality alfalfa hay and corn silages in the West.

“I really think what won it was the seed quality,” said Tony Borba, Jr., first-place winner in the Forage Challenge brown mid-rib corn silage category and recipient of a $3,000 cash award. “I’m excited and elated by the award.”

Forage growers Peter Weststeyn, Dave Roberti, and Borba were among the nine finalists and their families honored in Tulare, Calif. during the WAE Forage Challenge awards luncheon. The three award categories included alfalfa hay, corn silage, and brown mid-rib corn silage. First-place winners received $3,000, second place winners $2,000, and third place $1,000.

The finalists were chosen from 37 entries from nine Western states.

Borba, a San Joaquin County, Calif. dairyman, grows 180 acres of irrigated corn and winter forages with the family’s 520-cow Holstein operation, Tony Borba Dairy, in Escalon. Borba grew BMR silage corn for the first time in a test plot.

“We planted Mycogen (F2F) 797 and got great results,” Borba said. Harvest timing is also critical. “Make sure when you chop it at the optimal harvest time.”

Peter Weststeyn, dairyman, Weststeyn Dairy, Willows, Calif., accepted the second place award in the corn silage category for his father Bert Weststeyn. Peter credits DeKalb DKC 61-22 seed and Pioneer 31G97 seed, plus a strategically-delayed harvest, for the farm’s high quality corn silage.

“The last couple of years we’ve let it dry down a little more to take it at a lower dry matter,” Weststeyn said. “Many dairy guys like to chop corn quicker but we like to let it sit there longer and black line to gain higher starch and improved digestibility.”

The dairyman aims for a “40-40” mix of starch and tonnage and usually achieves around 30-30.

Dan Putnam, University of California Extension forage specialist, told the crowd that good quality corn silage is high in starch and neutral detergent fiber digestibility.

In the alfalfa hay category, “We had some real nice hay this year,” noted Dave Roberti, the third-place winner in the competition. Roberti and wife Jane operate Roberti Ranch in Loyalton, Calif. in Sierra County.  The Robertis are back-to-back WAE Forage Challenge winners, earning second place honors in alfalfa hay in last year’s competition.

Roberti credits Vernal seed and near perfect growing conditions for high quality alfalfa hay.

“Vernal alfalfa seed is an older-type seed and a real consistent, high-quality alfalfa producer for us,” Roberti explained. “In the long haul, Vernal competes well or better than other types in tonnage and is tops in quality.”

Roberti also credited a perfect alfalfa growing season with a wet spring, cool growing weather, and an extended fall period. “Mother Nature plays a big part in quality hay.” Roberti received a $1,000 cash award.

Putnam said high quality alfalfa hay includes leafiness and low fiber. “You want a low fiber, high-protein hay.”

The other six WAE Forage Challenge winners include:

Alfalfa hay category – first place - Kellie Hinman, Lazy 2K Livestock, and second place - David Hinman, Hadrock Farms, both of Wheatland, Wyo.

Corn silage category: first place - Kelly Callahan, Royal Turf Farms, Royal City, Wash., and third place - Case Kasbergen, Rancho Teresita Dairy, Tulare, Calif.

Brown mid-rib corn silage: Second place - Jared Silveira, Barreto & Silveira, Hanford, Calif., and third place - John Martin, Rynsburger Dairy, Strathmore, Calif.

Winners were chosen based on forage lab analyses and visual examination by dairy nutrition and forage production experts.

The 2011 WAE Forage Challenge was presented by Mycogen Seeds. The $18,000 in contest awards and prizes were provided by Lallemand Animal Nutrition North America. 

cblake@farmpress.com