This year’s alfalfa hay harvest could be the earliest in years, according to J.W. Schroeder, North Dakota State University extension dairy specialist.
Seeding surveys indicate that, unlike in the last five to six years, crops and forages are ahead of schedule this year.
“Naturally, the weather in the next few days could change that, but all indications at this point suggest that you could be done seeding early this year,” Schroeder says. “However, that doesn’t mean you have more time to put up forage, especially good-quality alfalfa for dairy cows.”
Many factors, such as environmental conditions, other fieldwork and insect infestations, enter into the decision of when to harvest alfalfa. But for dairy quality or prime alfalfa hay, height should be your guide, Schroeder advises.
“For years, we made forage harvest decisions based on plant maturity or calendar date,” he says. “Today plant height is more important in determining when to harvest first-cutting alfalfa than plant maturity and calendar date. Forage quality, digestibility and intake potential decrease with increasing maturity.”
Source: North Dakota State University