CORVALLIS, Ore. — John Myers credits the silt loam soil, the warm days and the humid mornings for the quality of hay he grows on his family’s property in the Butter Creek Valley southwest of Echo, Ore.
Judges Glenn Shewmaker, a University of Idaho Extension forage specialist, and Steve Norberg, a Washington State University Extension regional forage specialist, recognized that quality and presented Myers with three Hay King Contest awards at the Nov. 16-17 Fall Forage Festival. Myers earned Hay King honors in the Retail Alfalfa, Dairy Alfalfa and Grass/Legume categories. His grass hay entry also won Best of Show honors.
This was Myers’ fourth year of entering the annual Hay King Contest and his entries have graded high each year. He is the fifth generation in his family to farm the Butter Creek land that has been in his family since 1872. The 63-year-old has been farming it since 1972, when he was a teenager.
“We have 16 feet of soil in this valley,” said Myers, explaining the soil reportedly settled in the valley after a landslide brought it from the northeast during the Ice Age. “It has high organic matter and drains very well.”
Myers said while he has ideal conditions to grow alfalfa, grass and barley, he admires other hay growers who grow quality hay despite having problematic ground with thinner or rocky soils, a higher elevation, colder weather and elk issues.
“I admire them for the effort they put forth to grow the quality hay they do,” Myers said. “The other contestants I talk to have learned how to turn disadvantages into advantages. I really respect them for that.”
The McGinnis Ranch of Bend, Ore., under the management of Greg Mohnen, won the Grass King honor and Scott Pierson of Silver Lake, Ore., won the Cereal King.
The Fall Forage Festival was a two-day event that was co-hosted by the Oregon Forage and Grasslands Council and the Oregon Hay and Forage Association. Presentations about nutrient value of hay, hay storage and its impact on quality, matching hay to livestock, coping with drought, and current research and resources in the Pacific Northwest were given on the first day and the Hay King Contest was the main event on the second day.
Previously the two associations had held separate annual gatherings. This first-time festival drew about 70 people who were both growers and buyers. The hay contest had 20 entries.
“I was pleased with the turnout,” said Jerome Magnuson, a member of OFGC and co-coordinator of the festival. “It was a more diversified group that attended, meaning a broader range of producers and people interested in forages. It was very good to have west side-east side interaction. People took the opportunity to network, to better understand where they could source hay or sell hay.”
Magnuson added that having the festival on the OSU campus was important because it connected the land grant college and its research with producers who benefit from that work.
“It gave producers the opportunity to cooperate on present and future research projects,” he said. “Producers in the field have a different perspective than somebody on campus. This was a chance to bring those perspectives together, a stronger opportunity to make those research projects more relevant.”
Mylen Bohle, an OSU Extension forage specialist in Central Oregon, said the quality of the Hay King entries was “very good.” He said the top two entries in one category were separated by less than a point and another category was almost as close.
The two associations are evaluating this year’s festival and are considering holding a similar event again in 2019.