Forage Superbowl Changes with the Times

September 27, 2010 10:39 AM

The popular contest, now a truly national event, fine-tunes categories and awards

WDE   Superbowl D10104 smalIf you’re going to go to all the effort of organizing the greatest dairy show on earth, it only makes sense to ensure that any companion event is the biggest and best of its kind as well.
So it is with the World Forage Analysis Superbowl, held in conjunction with World Dairy Expo every year since 1983.
“The Superbowl has truly become a national contest over the past several decades,” says University of Wisconsin forage agronomist Dan Undersander, who has been involved in the Superbowl for more than 20 years. “In a typical year, we’ll have entries from two dozen states and one or two Canadian provinces.”
Just as Expo continuously evolves to reflect changes within the dairy industry, the Superbowl strives to remain in sync with developments affecting hay and forage producers. As an example, Undersander points out that the contest used to have a category for alfalfa cubes. When grower interest in cubing waned, the category was discontinued.
“Then, several years ago, we added a baleage category,” he says. “It’s become a significant feedstuff in many parts of the U.S. We’ve seen that the quality of baleage can be as high as the quality of hay or any other haylage.”
In the current contest structure, growers compete for more than $20,000 in cash prizes in six categories: dairy hay, dairy haylage, standard corn silage, BMR corn silage, commercial hay and baleage. Along with the individual category winners, an overall grand champion is also named.
“We used to give coupons that winners could use toward the purchase of a piece of equipment or for a certain amount of seed,” Undersander says. “But as the contest became more national in scope, we found that wasn’t workable. Seed varieties aren’t always adapted across a wide geographic area, and it wasn’t always possible to find a cooperating local equipment dealer to provide a specific piece of equipment. The all-cash approach has helped us streamline things.”
In 2009, contest organizers added two Quality Counts awards. Based on criteria other than those used to determine overall rankings, the awards are meant to educate forage users about a variety of new scientific tests that can be used to determine forage quality. Last year, one of these awards went to an entry with low ash content in the grass/legume categories, while the other was for an entry with high starch availability in the corn silage categories.
While some aspects of the Superbowl have changed over the years, grower enthusiasm has remained a constant. Last year, more than 300 samples were entered, up slightly from 2008.
“People enter for a variety of reasons,” Undersander says. “A lot of the commercial hay and haylage growers use it to promote their business. Some people do it for the prizes, while others just want to see how they’re doing compared to some of the best involved in hay and forage production.”
In 2009, there were 300 entries in the contest. Organizers expect the same or higher level of interest for 2010, with more than $20,000 in prize money.
The World Forage Analysis Superbowl has winning forage samples on display at the east end of the Arena Building. Forage experts from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois will present cutting-edge information on the Dairy Forage Tool Box Seminar Stage. The free daily seminars feature a question-and-answer period.
Wednesday, Sept. 29
10:30 a.m.          
Getting the Most from Baleage by Knowing What to Do When
Kevin Shinners,                 Biological Systems Engineer, University of Wisconsin–Madison
1:30 p.m.            
A New Way of Looking at Bunker Silage Density
Richard Muck, Agricultural Engineer, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA–ARS
Thursday, Sept. 30
10:30 a.m.          
Can Alfalfa Compete with Corn Silage in Dairy Rations?
Mike Hutjens, Extension Dairy Specialist, University of Illinois at Urbana-               Champaign
1:30 p.m.            
Growing Grasses for Dairy Rations
Geoff Brink, Agronomist, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA–ARS
Friday, Oct. 1
10:30 a.m.          
What Do the Real Experts (Cows) Say about Corn Silage Fiber Analyses?
Dave Combs, Dairy Scientist, University of Wisconsin–Madison
1:30 p.m.            
A Primer on Rumen Microbes, A Cow’s Best Friend
Paul Weimer, Microbiologist, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA-ARS
Saturday, Oct. 2
10:30 a.m.          
Factors Affecting Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) in Hay and Haylage
Dan Undersander, Research and Extension Agronomist, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Mycogen Seeds
Case IH
Kuhn North America
Kent Feeds 
W-L Research
Croplan Genetics
Bridon Cordage
National Hay Association
More than $20,000 awarded in cash prizes in 2010.

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