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Harvesting Alfalfa

Harvesting your Alfalfa

There are different options for how and when alfalfa can be harvested, but mowing timing is critical to maintaining the health and persistence of the crop.

A versatile crop

there are different options for how and when alfalfa can be harvested but mowing timing is critical to maintaining the health and persistence of the crop.

Alfalfa can be harvested as silage, baled and wrapped, or baled as hay, based on the needs of the farmer and the climatic conditions. There are things to consider in the harvesting phase to ensure that the quality of forage harvested is maintained without doing harm to the alfalfa stand and impacting its persistence.

Harvest Methods

  • The harvest method chosen should be based on the use of the forage, and the climate constraints of the season.
  • Usually, first cut on the year is harvested as silage, because the drying time is limited. The following cuts are usually harvested and wrapped or hayed in the summer when it is easier to dry alfalfa.
  • Space cuts 3 to 4 weeks apart to allow the alfalfa to regenerate between mows and maintain persistence of the crop.

The different drying stages of a plant

table of harvesting Alfalfa Benefits and drawbacks

When to cut

The cutting or mowing stage for your alfalfa will depend on your use objectives. Between the start of budding and the start of flowering, the dry matter yield increases whereas nutritional values (protein and digestibility) decline.

  • If you are looking for protein-rich forage, it is recommended to cut the alfalfa as early as possible in the start of budding phase
  • If you are looking for volume and/or to make high quality hay, it is recommended to mow at the start of flowering phase.
  • It is generally not recommended to harvest after flowering, as feed values decrease a lot and yield is stable.
  • Optimal staging for cutting is:
    • Beginning of budding silage
    • Start of flower for hay
    • Between budding and flowering for wrapping

Graph budding

Tips For Successful Harvesting

  • Choose the harvest method best adapted to the drying conditions.
  • Set the cutting/mowing staged based on how you want to use the crop
  • Cut to 7cm to maintain the alfalfa stand’s persistence.
  • Let the alfalfa flower once a year to allow root renewal.
  • Leave at least 3 to 4 week between cuts/mowing.
  • Mow for the last time 4 weeks before the first frost.

To get agronomic advice or find seed, contact find your local MAS Seeds representative.

Alfalfa Grain

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