Alfalfa quality surveys preview cutting schedule
That alfalfa should be ready for harvest next week at the desired quality for haylage or hay is indicated by the scissors cutting and predictive equation of alfalfa quality (PEAQ) readings taken in east central counties within the past few days.
Results on May 8 from seven fields of first, second, or third year stands throughout Calumet County indicated alfalfa stand heights of 17.5 to 22 inches (4 to 6 inches taller than 6 days earlier).
Results also showed a crude protein range of 19.4 to 24.6 percent, acid detergent fiber at 24.4 to 28.1 percent, neutral detergent fiber at 30.2 to 37 percent, relative feed value at 173.6 to 216, and PEAQ scores of 195 to 265.
All of the fields had reached the early bud stage of maturity.
In 10 fields in Sheboygan and northeastern Washington County on May 7, alfalfa plant height had increased by 5 inches — to 17 to 22 inches — from a week earlier and all fields were still in a late stage of vegetative growth. The PEAQ readings were in a relatively tight range of 200 to 230.
On May 8, six fields in Manitowoc County had plant heights of 16 to 19 inches with relative feed values calculated at between 218 and 235 on the PEAQ scale.
Based on those numbers, cutting dates of May 18 to 22 were recommended for the stands, which were in the vegetative to pre-bud growth stage.
Because of “unique and unprecedented” growing conditions as alfalfa came out of dormancy in early March, Manitowoc County will also be submitting scissors cuttings to the AgSource laboratory at Bonduel for content analysis, according to Extension Service dairy and livestock agent Scott Gunderson.
He noted that another PEAQ reading would be taken today (May 11) and that a second batch of scissors cuttings would be collected for analysis on May 15.
In Fond du Lac County, the first scissors cuttings were taken on April 23 — exactly one month earlier than in 2011, Extension Service crops and soils agent Mike Rankin noted.
The latest published data was for April 30, when the four surveyed fields were in a vegetative growth stage with plant heights of 17 to 20 inches.
The PEAQ readings in Fond du Lac County put the relative feed value at 211 to 230. The scissors analyses indicated percentages of 24.6 to 27.2 for crude protein, 20.6 to 22.6 for acid detergent fiber, 25.4 to 27.1 for neutral detergent fiber, and relative feed values of 224 to 278.
In Dodge County, a report by interim crops and soils agent David Laatsch on May 2 indicated alfalfa heights were nearing 20 inches. He suggested cutting the crop when it reaches heights of 24 to 26 inches with a relative feed value of 170.
A report by Extension Service forage specialist Dan Undersander on May 1 noted that alfalfa heights had already reached 24 inches in the state’s southern counties. He added that the average growth is 8 to 10 inches for that date.
The alfalfa PEAQ readings and scissors cutting analyses are provided through the cooperation of Extension Service agents, county forage councils, and private crop consultants.
Results are available on the county Extension Service Web sites or by calling the Extension Service office in the counties conducting those analyses.