Benton County, Ark., bermuda hay producers will host their 10th annual Quality Forage contest with an open invitation to producers from throughout Arkansas and neighboring states to submit hay samples.

“The samples will be analyzed for several measurements of quality, including color, protein content and energy value,” said Robert Seay, Benton County staff chair with the Arkansas Extension Service.

Winning producers will be recognized at an awards program to be determined later.

Any producer who wants to submit a bermuda hay sample should ask their county Extension agent to collect a sample.

The deadline to submit a sample is Nov. 21.

Producers in Oklahoma, Missouri and north Arkansas have participated in the past.

“It’s a great opportunity for producers to see how their hay stacks up against other producers,” Seay noted.

Winning samples will be submitted to the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) for the national forage contest.

Co-sponsored by area agri-lenders, agri-businesses and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, the Quality Forage program has garnered national attention. Quality Forage winners have received top national honors from the AFGC for seven consecutive years.

Seay said Benton County producers have acknowledged the benefit of having participants involved from other areas. One goal established by the county’s producers in 1997 was to promote production efficiency and management along with a greater awareness of bermudagrass hay quality and marketing. More producer involvement has served to document and validate better production information.

“As old and new management practices are critiqued, producers withhold no secret, which enables the program to achieve and maintain success,” Seay said. “Information continues to spread across county and state lines, prompting other producers to seek answers. As a result, bermudagrass hay has grown from a minor cash crop to filling the role of a multi-million dollar commodity throughout Arkansas and neighboring states.”

Numerous sponsors continue to provide Quality Forage program support, which helps recognize and encourage producers while enabling the collection of useful information.

The $15 per-sample fee includes the analysis and an invitation to the program and sponsored meal. Producers may enter multiple samples, but each must be from hay produced under their management. Entries must be about one-half pound, core-sampled hay taken from multiple bales of the same cutting and variety.

To arrange for samples to be taken or for more details, producers should contact their county Extension office. The program date and related information will be provided to all producers who enter. Inquiries regarding program or award sponsorships are always welcome and may be directed to Rseay@uaex.edu.