“A model used at the University of Michigan will predict yield for each of these three scenarios,” Ramsey says. “As stands age, of course, yields and value drop. However, some stands can remain productive for as long as five to 10 years.”
Whatever you do, avoid reseeding immediately with another alfalfa stand. Autotoxicity can result, particularly in older fields. Autotoxicity occurs when established alfalfa plants produce a chemical or chemicals that infiltrate the soil and reduce establishment and growth of the new alfalfa plants. Experts suggest rotating out of alfalfa for at least one season after killing an old stand.
Preserving feed quality
Growers should consider timing alfalfa harvest to maximize the relative feed quality (RFQ). Cutting early may improve the RFQ of the silage.
Once cut, alfalfa chopped for haylage benefits from inoculant treatment. Pioneer has developed 11H50, an alfalfa-specific inoculant product for haylage. “Pioneer® brand inoculant 11H50 is excellent for improving fermentation and preservation of the natural nutrients in alfalfa,” Brown says. “Inoculant-treated alfalfa silage delivers more total feed value than untreated alfalfa silage.”
Some growers, mainly in western states, will bale alfalfa as dry hay. Pioneer offers 1155, another alfalfa-specific inoculant specifically for dry hay, Ramsey notes. Pioneer brand inoculant 1155 helps preserve nutrient value in alfalfa hay.
“Growers need to weigh their options,” Brown concludes. “Look at what your needs are as far as livestock feed, time constraints for replanting and other factors. It comes down to making the best decision for your operation and your overall profitability.”
Factors affecting winter injury
Growers should assess alfalfa stands in the fall after the year’s final cutting. However, some winter conditions and situations may cause you to alter a decision as spring arrives. Here’s a list of risk factors and how they impact alfalfa stand health for better or worse.