Cupps wins grand champion with white clover in hay quality contest

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Ozark Empire Fair Judge Tammy Holder, from The College of the Ozarks, examines the hay quality of contestants in a contest held this month. Shell Knob native Matt Cupps won grand champion for what Eldon Cole, University of Missouri extension livestock specialist, called "an impressive 213 relative feed value (RFV)" white clover hay he was able to put up this summer during a dry spell, in spite of a season full of rain and poor weather conditions for drying. Contributed photo

Extension experts say show smallest in its 31-year history due to rain

Matt Cupps of Shell Knob and Cupps Farms was recently awarded grand champion in a hay quality contest at the Ozark Empire Fair this month in Springfield, even when University of Missouri Extension experts said that weather conditions negatively impacted hay quality this year.

In fact, contest organizer and extension Livestock Specialist Eldon Cole reported that, due to the weather's impact, the hay show this year was one of the smallest in its 31-year history.

Shown are ribbons for grand champion and reserve grand champion at a hay quality contest this month at The Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, attached to a breakdown analysis of the hay's nutrient and protein quantity and quality. Shell Knob native Matt Cupps, of Cupps Farms, won grand champion for the quality of his hay. Cupps said he has entered alfalfa in the contest in the past, but this year, entered white clover, and, despite rain and generally poor weather conditions, was able to take advantage of a dry spell to get the hay put up and in the end, produce a high-caliber, high-quality hay. Cupps said farmers traditionally don't graze or bale clover, and tend to underestimate its value, adding that clover can be difficult to put up for hay, but beneficial to farmers because it's very easy to graze, and is key to diluting problems with fescue, which can carry toxins that have the potential to negatively impact cattle performance. Contributed photo

"The common complaint was the weather was not conducive to hay harvest," Cole said. "Too much rain and poor drying conditions did prove to be a challenge for farmers."

In spite of the weather, however, some producers, like Cupps, were able to put up quality, and competitive, hay.

Cupps' hay stood out, Cole said, because it was a white clover, which competes in the legume class, and the hay tallied up an impressive 213 relative feed value (RFV). Total digestible nutrients (TDN) were 71.4 percent, and crude protein content was 23.4 percent. The RFV makes up 60 percent of the final index in the contest. The remaining 40 percent of the index is based on the subjective evaluation by the judge. The points are divided among purity, 15, color, 5, aroma, 5 and condition, 15. Cupps' entry received a total of 32 points.

This year's judge was Tammy Holder, of College of the Ozarks and Point Lookout.

Cupps said he had not intended to grow the white clover for hay, but it looked so good he ended up cutting it for hay, and as far as the quality, Cupps said, he had a dry period and "got lucky."

"The early cutting hay was actually alright," Cupps said. "It was the later cuttings that we ran into rain problems and this was clover, which, traditionally, people don't bale for hay, but we had some really good clover and we thought it would be fun to see what the quality was. When we realized we were going to get it put up dry, we knew it was going to be good hay."

Cupps said farmers typically don't graze clover, either, usually focus on alfalfa, and underestimate clover's value.

"Clover is very hard to put up for hay, but very easy to graze," Cupps said. "So if you have it, it's always a blessing to be able to graze it. That's kind of the key to diluting the problems with fescue. Our traditional grass is fescue and it has a little toxin that decreases cattle performance, so anytime you can get something like clover and bermuda, then you're better off for it.

"In traditional grass hay, there is clover mixed in with it. We were mowing and baling alfalfa at the time, and had an area that was prolific white clover. We had a dry spell [to put it up], and got lucky. We have entered alfalfa before but this is the first time we've ever entered clover. It's a legume like alfalfa. This year was a great clover year especially; it has continued to grow all summer."

Cupps works full-time alongside twin brother Scott on Cupps Farms, a row crops and cattle farm, which has been in their family for generations. The two took over the farming operation in 2006.

The highest subjective score in the hay contest was given to the alfalfa/orchard grass entry from John Staiger, Billings, who won the grass/legume class with 39 subjective points and had an RFV of 139 with 60.6 percent TDN and 16.2 percent protein.

The reserve grand champion was an alfalfa entry from Dotson Brothers, Marionville. It had an RFV of 190, TDN of 68.1 percent and a protein of 21.7 percent. The cool season grass class was won by Marcia Moreland, of Crane, with a fescue entry that was harvested May 3. It had an RFV of 109, TDN of 61.3 percent and a protein level of 14.1 percent.

In the large hay package the class winners were Dan Corlett, Willard, legume; Kevin Dotson, Billings, grass; Randy Jenkins, Seymour, grass/legume. The latter entry was the first certified organic hay entered in the show.

Cole said the hay show provides an outlet for extension specialists to demonstrate that high-quality hay can be produced in southwest Missouri, and also helps attract buyers. But whether buying or selling hay, Cole advises the following when it comes to hay quality, "test don't guess."

For more information on the use of hay analysis information, people may contact their local extension office. In Barry County, the office can be reached at 417-847-3161.

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