to the cash prizes. The ag industry also reaps the rewards.
“The Youth Education Challenges give us an opportunity to interact
with the next generation of our consumers,” Blalock points out.
In its first year, the challenges drew about 150 students. Visitors
who want to participate or watch can find the Youth Challenges in
the R. W Griffin Building. Expo admission for students who register
for the Youth Challenge is $8. Event registration is free. Lunch for
competitors is sponsored by Agri Supply and Coca-Cola.
The Expo is hosting the Georgia FFA State tractor competition for
the first time. “We hope this will become an annual event,” Blalock says.
INNOVATIVE EQUIPMENT DRIVES CLASSIC EVENTS
An FFA tractor competition is new to the Expo, but driving tractors is
a staple. Visitors will be able to check out trucks and various pieces
of farming equipment either from the driver’s seat or while watching
crops being worked and harvested on the Darrell Williams Research
Farm, 600 acres dedicated to agronomic advancement. Haying
demonstrations will draw the usual crowds. On the equipment side,
tillage implements and corn stalk shredders are highlights this year,
says Cody Mitchell, Expo farm manager.
“These corn stalk shredders are designed to rip the cotton stalks
up, chop them into pieces and leave the field clean — all in one pass,”
Overall, Mitchell says, dry weather stressed the crops on the farm,
but the team expects to provide a valuable showcase. “The crops are
looking pretty good,” Mitchell says. “The cotton is loaded up well.”
“We’re hoping to have good harvest weather — and no hurricanes,”
he says, referring to Hurricane Michael. For farmers in the path of that
harvest-time storm, the cost in yield and on-farm damage was high
and the 2018 season went on too long. “I finished picking cotton on
Martin Luther King Junior Day this year,” Mitchell reports.
Just like farmers across the country, however, the farm staff
perseveres. “At the end of the day, we are a research farm,” Mitchell
says. “We are a working farm.”
FORAGING FOR QUALIT Y
Just as the farm drives innovation and advances agronomics, the
Southeast Hay Competition pushes producers to step up the quality
of their crop. Started in 2004, the hay competition focuses on Relative
Forage Quality (RFQ), a measurement of the nutritional value the hay
or baleage offers animals. The 2018 winner “broke the scale,” topping
the nutritional value scores in the program.
Since weather significantly impacts hay quality, University of
Georgia (UGA) Extension Forage Specialist Lisa Baxter says, “it will
be interesting to see the scores, given the challenging weather
producers had to deal with this year.”
While only 22 of the 200-plus entries are named award winners,
Baxter says the producer wins and the industry benefits with each
“It encourages producers to test their hay,” Baxter says. “Even
if you’re not feeding it yourself, it’s feeding animals. Quality is
QUALIT Y SHOWMANSHIP TAKES THE RING
Quality links the three celebrities on the ticket for the Priefert Horse
Arena, who each ride into Sunbelt from different professional trails.
“Horse enthusiasts will find all three of our guests pretty
captivating,” says Cindy Wynn, the UGA Extension Agent who leads
the equine section of Sunbelt.
Wade Black, the 2019 Road to the Horse WildCard winner, will
provide demonstrations each day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wade also
directs the Equine Science Program at Treasure Valley Community
College in Ontario, Oregon. He and his wife Amaia own Training
for the Cross, a family owned and operated business focused on
producing well-rounded bridle horses and providing industry
quality standards and industry certifications in training horses for
the public. His lineage is strong. Father Martin Black, uncle Billy Van
Norman, and grandfather Ray Hunt are icons of horsemanship.
Fans can meet Chris “Booger” Brown, star of the TV series “The
Cowboy Way”, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Brown, from Samson,
Alabama, is one of three cowboys featured in this documentary
series on INSP. Now renewed for a sixth season, the show follows the
adventures of three cowboys who are building their cattle business
in South Alabama. Brown is an expert cattleman and horse trainer.
Analise Granger, a professional Roman rider from Dothan,
Alabama. Roman riding, sometimes referred to as trick riding, is a
Western style that allows a rider to stand on two horses and perform
various patterns or jump through fire. Sunbelt visitors can catch her
act at 9: 45 a.m. and 12: 45 p.m. each day of the show.
ASK A LIVESTOCK EXPERT
While visitors are in that corner of the Expo grounds, they can stop at
the Beef Pavilion for a seminar, see a cattle handling demonstration
at Priefert Arena, or visit the Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom, one of
several seminar sessions at the dairy section, F- 7.
“We are going to have a much bigger ask-the-expert section
with a lot of smart people there,” says Steve Blackburn, a member
of the Sunbelt Expo board of directors and leader of the beef
program. Referring to the beef cattle management and forage
seminars, Blackburn says: “You could not go anywhere in the
country and find more expertise than you will find right here at the
Expo those three days.”
Implants, vaccines, and baleage are on the topic calendar for
the seminars, as is this one that will touch the lives of many Sunbelt
visitors: Hit by a Hurricane: What Happened to Our Livestock Forage
Systems and How Did We Handle it?
Many who attend Sunbelt Ag Expo — and leaders of the farm
show themselves – can give tips on picking up the pieces after a
hurricane. As Sunbelt 2019 opens — nearly on the anniversary of
Hurricane Michael — with its traditional moment for prayer and the
Star-Spangled Banner, the prayer for many is one of thankfulness.
The recovery report from Southwest Georgia is good.
“The family farm is alive and well,” Blalock says. “While it’s been a
year of recovery for our friends that were hit by Hurricane Michael and
our friends in the Carolinas who were hit by hurricanes Florence and
Michael, it’s business as usual at Sunbelt Ag Expo. We will be full. The
farm operations will be in full swing. We are blessed by our exhibitors
signing up and sticking with us through thick and thin. As always, our
attendees will see the latest technology that the market has to offer.”
The goal for the 42nd year is the same: for visitors to believe that
this year’s Sunbelt Expo is the best ever.
“Our farmers constantly work to get better, says Expo Executive
Director Chip Blalock. “We do, too.”