First in Forages

Published on Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:52pm

Byron Seeds brings home multiple awards from the 2015 Forage Analysis Superbowl

By Larry Hawkins, PAS / Photos by Jane Fyksen, Editor, AgriView Corps

The Forage Analysis Superbowl (FASB), which is held every fall during the World Dairy Expo, has become the premiere arbiter of  high-quality forages in the United States. Overseen by Dr. Dan Underander of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the contest draws entries from across the U.S. and in 2015, 22 states were represented. Dairyland Labs analyzes the samples and several anonymous County Extension agents provide the visual judgment. 2015 was the 32nd year for the fasb.

Between 375 and 450 samples are typically entered in 7 categories: Commercial Hay, Dairy Hay, Grass Hay, Baleage, Haylage, Conventional Corn Silage and BMR Corn Silage. The difference in the Dairy Hay category and the Commercial Hay category is that the Dairy hay submitter must have cows.

$22,000 dollars are awarded to the Champions and the next three placers in each class. Additional cash prizes are awarded for the overall best forage, the best first time entrant, and two Quality Counts awards — one each for the hay/haylage categories and one for the corn silages. The Quality Counts are for a different aspect of forage quality each year and the contestants do not know ahead of time what the category will be. However, for two years in a row, the winner had the lowest uNDFD240. In 2013, the Quality Counts awards was on the highest TTNDFD.

The Cash awards were provided due to the sponsorship of the following Companies: Mycogen, W-L Research, Barembrug, NEXTGRO, Ag-Bag, Agri-King, Agrisure Traits, Kemin, Kuhn North America, CROPLAN by Winfield, and the National Hay Association. The USDA Forage Research Center also plays a role.


Byron Seeds entry to the FASB scene

The Forage Superbowl was started to recognize the best forages of the day when forages were mainly alfalfa and corn silage. The World Dairy Expo Forage Analysis Superbowl has become the recognized leader in awarding forage quality. As Byron Seeds expanded from a mainly grazing focus to a complete  high-quality forage supplier to all sizes of dairy farms, we were looking for ways to emphasize the superiority of our forages. Many of these  high-quality forages were cool season grasses that had been forgotten in the U.S., but have been improved greatly by aggressive breeding programs in Europe. The reason for this dichotomy was that in Europe it was difficult to grow alfalfa so cool-season grasses remained the linchpin for dairy forage.

Our problem was that grasses were mostly left out of the dairy forage in the U.S. forage scene 30 or 40 years ago. We needed a way to show the superiority of modern vegetative grasses and help reintroduce cool-season grasses to the dairy industry. Our main points to get people interested in grasses was that the grasses your grandfather grew were very different from the grasses that the three major grass-breeding companies in Europe are marketing today. These grasses are now much less heady with a greater harvest window (similar to alfalfa). They also add to the yield of an alfalfa stand and they mutually benefit each other in their longevity and exchange of nitrogen.

Our other crop that has competed well in the FASB is the Masters Choice Corn Silage hybrids. Even though we call Masters Choice (MC) a corn silage hybrid, it is not limited to silage as other “silage specific” hybrids are. MC corns produce not only a lot of corn (starch), but a starch that is a more floury and is less viscous than typical corn silage corn. This, along with its BMR-like fiber digestibility and its very competitive yields, make it an excellent corn silage as evidenced by its showing in the FASB — two grand Champions in a row and three altogether, plus one Grand Champion forage overall! Its superior starch availability makes it a great choice for dry- or high-moisture shelled corn, earlage or HM ear corn as well.

The point is that it MC is not a corn-silage-only option and its starch is available after only a very short fermentation. If you grow it — feed it — don’t sell it!

So it was decided to enter our forages in the FASB about 8 or 10 years ago. At first it was mostly our grasses added to somebody else’s alfalfa and Masters Choice. And we started placing high in the contest. Eventually, our lineup of KingFisher® Alfalfas also started showing up in the winners’ and finalists’ brackets, both as a stand-alone but more often with a mixture of various cool season grasses. Our customers were earning dollars and recognition! And Byron Seeds, LLC, which has had uninterrupted growth continued growing.

In this year’s 2015 FASB, 33 of the 90 finalists (in the categories entered), at least part of the crop was a Byron Seeds product. Of those 33, 31 finalists were 100% Byron Seeds products. In three of the classes, Conventional Corn Silage, Haylage and Grass Hay, the Grand Champions were from Byron Seeds’ products. In a fourth category, a Byron Seeds entry was the first place finisher, however, it was moved to second place because its submitter, Olson Farms, also won the Conventional Corn Silage category. FASB rules state that a farm can only win one Grand Champion.

In 2014, Byron Seeds did equally as well. That year, we had 5 Grand Champions: Corn Silage (which was also the Grand Champion overall), Haylage, Grass Hay, Baleage, the Grand Champion First Time Entrant (which was also the 2nd best corn silage overall); and the Quality Counts Hay/Haylage winner. We had seventeen finalists all together.

In 2013, Byron Seeds had 3 Grand Champions, including Grass Hay, Balelage and the Quality Counts Corn Silage winner. Overall, we had 23 finalists including the number two Conventional Corn Silage.

Besides the Masters Choice hybrids, almost every one of our KingFisher® Alfalfas has been a finalist or Champion. Even some of our Red Clovers have been winners, but to Byron Seeds, this not surprising since Red Clover on the average has between 9 and 10 percentage units higher Fiber Digestibility (NDFd) than does alfalfa.

In the grasses, most of our modern, improved cool-season grass lineup have been finalists and champions. The last two years, a 100% grass haylage was Grand Champion in the Dairy Haylage category. This year a tall fescue and last year an Italian Ryegrass were the champs! Orchardgrass, meadow fescue, and festulolium are also prominent. The reason grasses do so well is that when you look at two categories — Commercial Hay and Grass Hay, you will see a stark contrast.

This year the virtually-pure grass hay finalists averaged over 71% NDFd48 and the virtually-pure alfalfa Commercial Hay finalists averaged 45.76%! Someday they will learn to use more grass! And to be sure, several of the Commercial Hay producers (from Wyoming, the winner of the Commercial Hay has been from Wyoming virtually every year) stopped at our Byron Seeds booth at the World Dairy Expo!

Fiber Digestibility is a key to the superior quality of Byron Seeds’ forages and more importantly, it is a key to high-forage diets and healthy cows. Without high digestibility, high-forage diets are an impossibility. And of course there is no better way to feed for herd health than to feed a lot of forage.    

Byron Seeds, LLC, Rockville, Indiana, is an independent marketing and research company: we do not grow any seed. Our staff of dairy farmers, agronomists and dairy nutritionists select the best seed for forage production from all over the world.

We select seed from Europe, New Zealand, Oregon, the Upper Midwest and even Texas (sorghums). We then try each product ourselves to learn of its viability, how to grow it and how to feed it and from there we can recommend it or reject it. We are never stuck with a seed to sell just because our own growers grew it! Our dealers and staff are experts in all aspects of  high-quality forage.