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Washington County producer Bobby Umberson received the highest honor bestowed on an Arkansas bermuda hay grower when his peers named him grower of the year during the 11th Annual Quality Forage program hosted by Benton County bermuda hay producers.

Although Benton County producers are nationally recognized for quality Bermuda hay production, in 2004 they established entry categories to recognize the accomplishments of other hay producers from across Arkansas and neighboring states.

Umberson, of Cane Hill, is only the third producer to win the honor outside of Benton County.

In addition to the Bermuda hay acreage under management, Umberson’s accomplishments in achieving year-round forage quality, equipment and haying innovations and marketing skills served to impress the 115 growers and sponsors in attendance at the recent program.

Umberson achieved the highest average relative feed quality, or RFQ, score with an average of 122 for hay entries from every harvest period in 2008. In addition, he placed in the top five producer group in each of the competitive categories for: relative feed value, or RFV, at 124, total digestible nutrients at 69 percent, crude protein at 17.3 percent and hay color.

According to Robert Seay, Benton County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the quality for the 113 producer samples entered from the 2008 harvest year was the highest of any Bermuda hay contest in the nation, averaging: RFQ, 107; RFV, 91; TDN, 64 percent; and crude protein, 13.3 percent.

RFQ and RFV scores of 100 equate to the hay quality of mid-bloom alfalfa. The scores achieved by Umberson and his peers are indicative of Bermuda hay that is superior in nutrition, digestibility and animal acceptance. Hay color is directly related to quality and marketability.

Umberson has participated in the Quality Forage program since it opened to out-of-county producers in 2004. His accomplishments are the result of management practices that he continues to fine tune each year. A previous winner in individual quality categories, this is the first year that producers witnessed Umberson’s ability to complete a sweep by placing at the top in all categories.

“Participation in the Quality Forage program by producers from surrounding counties, as well as from Oklahoma and Missouri, strengthens the fact that excellent hay quality knows no boundaries,” Seay said. “We see this as more than a hay contest and continue to package the program in a manner to promote improved management through the collective effort of producers like Bobby Umberson.

“This pooling of producer knowledge has enabled our program to gain state, regional and national recognition for eight consecutive years,” Seay said. “More importantly, the program has elevated the confidence and credibility of an increasing number of producers who continue to grow the nation’s best Bermuda hay!”

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

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