Farm City awards: Hay Farmer

Bill Conrad, center, is the 2019 Hay Farmer of the Year

Bill Conrad is a fourth-generation Jackson County farmer. Over the years, he has raised a number of traditional crops: peanuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, triticale, and pine trees. For the past several years, however, he has shifted his focus to become a quality hay producer for horse, goat, beef and dairy farms.

Bill and his son, Joe, manage a very unique forage operation. They take great pride in producing high quality alfalfa, perennial peanut, and Bermuda grass hay. Currently, they are conducting an on-farm hay test to evaluate five alfalfa varieties to determine which will produce best in this area. Although their primary business is square-bale hay, they also provide custom hay harvest service of round-bale hay for farms in the area.

The Jackson County Hay Contest is based on locally grown hay with the highest Relative Forage Quality, or RFQ, score. RFQ is a single number index that takes into account protein, energy, fiber, and digestibility of hay, which allows for easy comparisons between cuttings and different forage types. An RFQ index of 100 is equal to very mature, or low-quality alfalfa hay.

In 2019, Bill sent in seven forage samples for quality testing. His best hay was an April cutting of alfalfa. Bill’s hay had an RFQ index of 231, with an estimated animal dry matter intake of four percent of body weight. The alfalfa peanut hay was preserved at 17 percent moisture, with 21 percent Crude Protein (CP), and 71 percent Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), on a dry matter basis. This is the sixth year in a row that Bill has been recognized for having the highest quality hay in the county. In addition, Bill’s hay entries won first place in the Perennial Peanut Division, and placed third in the Alfalfa Division of the Southeast Hay Contest, at the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

The Hay Farmer of the Year is determined by the highest RFQ score for forage samples submitted each year by the Extension Service for quality testing to the University of Georgia’s Feed Lab.

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