Alfalfa quality updates

Ray Mueller
Now Media Group


Depending on how they plan to use the feed, dairy farmers should be completing the first cutting of this year's alfalfa crop within the next few days. That's the overall finding from quality tests taken in east central counties during the past week.

The samples taken on three fields in Brown County on May 20 had near infra-red laboratory analysis relative feed values (RFV) of 185 to 244 while the Predictive Equivalent of Alfalfa Quality (PEAQ) scores were 185 to 209. Crude protein content was 21 to 23 percent.

Brown County Extension Service agriculture agent Liz Binversie pointed out that RFV goals with alfalfa haylage and hay are 140 to 160 when fed to milking cows, 125 to 145 for heifers up to one year old, 115 to 130 to bred heifers, and 100 to 115 for dry cows and springing heifers. She noted that 20 to 30 RFV points are typically lost between alfalfa cutting and feeding of the forage.

'Get ready to cut' was the message from Manitowoc County dairy and livestock agent Scott Gunderson after results were tabulated from seven fields on May 20. Based on RFVs of 180 to 210, cutting dates of May 23 to 28 were recommended.

Two fields in the original sampling group in Manitowoc County were already cut by May 20. Those awaiting harvest were 2nd and 3rd year stands with plant heights of 19 to 26 inches.

The two fields remaining on May 23 for sampling in Outagamie County had PEAQ values of 156 and 193 and RFV scores of 181 and 213 from the laboratory analysis of the scissors cuttings, according to county crops, soils, and horticulture agent Kevin Jarek. Both fields had crude protein of close to 22 percent while the heights were 24 and 30 inches at the bud stage of growth.

In Sheboygan County, Extension Service crops and soils agent Mike Ballweg observed that the RFV scores in the seven sampled fields of 2nd and 3rd year alfalfa stands dropped by an average of 6.2 points per day from May 16 to 23 compared to the usual daily rate of 3 to 5 points.

Those fields posted RFV scores of 163 to 185 and PEAQ readings of 160 to 185 on May 23. Plant heights were 25 to 30 inches. The crude protein range was 18 to 23 percent.

In all of the counties, the sampling for alfalfa quality is a cooperative venture of the Extension Service offices, private sector crop consultants and agronomists, and agricultural cooperatives. Same day results are posted on the Extension Service websites and can be e-mailed directly to farmers requesting them.