By: Chris Basham
When considering planting alfalfa as a new stand many questions can be asked to help narrow the wide array of alfalfa varieties down to a chosen few. Many alfalfa varieties on the market today have excellent yield and quality, and come with a very good disease package. So how does a grower decide?
The key to decision making is having clear goals for the final product. Alfalfa is the best source of high quality forage for most livestock producers. That being said, not all alfalfas are created equal.
Are you going to sell hay, or feed hay to livestock yourself?
If you are selling hay, know your customer’s and nutritional requirements. Nutrient requirements for dairy cows versus beef cows can be substantially different. Reduced lignin alfalfa varieties such as Entree RL alfalfa offer reduced lignin levels and higher digestibility to produce more milk/ton making it very popular with dairy producers.
How will you manage your alfalfa from planning to seeding?
Soil test the area to be seeded to ensure proper ph and other nutrient levels are at or exceeding alfalfa growing requirements. Chose varieties with dormancy ratings recommended for your area.
How will you harvest?
Harvesting on a regular 28-30 day cycle is optimum for quality, but due to weather or other issues that time frame may not be feasible. In that instance, Entree RL offers high quality through an extended harvest window.
How many years will the stand be utilized in your rotation?
The average lifespan of a good alfalfa rotation is approximately 3-5 years. Depending on the variety utilized, quality and tonnage will be reduced in a longer rotation. If deciding to extend the field’s rotation, grasses and clovers can be utilized to improve the stand, and be sure to seed Eldora II or Hybriforce 3400 to get premium yields, quality and longevity.
Do you have pest or weed control issues?
HopperNot can be used if you have leafhopper issues and L-446 RR alfalfa can be seeded if you want the flexibility of using Round-up for weed control.