Here are 5 key factors to look out for when making quality alfalfa:
1) Seed type and dormancy
It is crucial to choose the correct seed type and dormancy for the type of alfalfa you need.
The correct seed is also important for the soil and environmental conditions of your field.
2) Irrigation schedule
If you are using irrigation, make sure to size fields appropriately so that entire field can be irrigated in a few hours instead of days.
This will make sure that entire field has homogeneous maturity.
Consider the water availability options now as well as future.
3) Harvesting time
Calendar date is poor at predicting when to harvest quality alfalfa.
Use Predictive Equations for Alfalfa Quality (PEAQ) and stick to estimated quality within 15 - 20 points of relative feed value (RFV) or 2 pounds of ADF.
This is to account for point loss between cutting and confection.
4) Nutrient loss
It is estimated that 20 to 40 points of RFV is lost between cutting and harvesting.
This is mainly due to plant continuing to breathe after it is cut and consuming its most digestible nutrients as it does so.
Hence, exposing the entire plant to ultraviolet ray is recommended as it slows down the plant breathing.
Laying the plant flat can have positive effects as the plant will lock in highly digestible and valuable nutrients in the plant after harvest.
5) Dirt contamination
Normal ash of alfalfa is around 8% - 10%.
Anything above 10% is considered excessive dirt contamination.
You can reduce dirt contamination by:
Setting header height to be more than 2 inch
Use flat knives
Reduce furrow height
Harvest level fields.