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Bulk Up Alfalfa

July 2, 2012
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor

If you were able to get a jump start on alfalfa harvest this year with the early spring and plan to take five cuts this year, be sure to allow plants to recover.

Normally, if four cuts are taken, it’s recommended that one of the cuttings be allowed to mature to first flower to rebuild carbohydrates in the plant’s root system. If you’re planning to take five cuts, allow two of those cuttings to go to first flower, recommends Dan Undersander, a University of Wisconsin agronomist.

If you don’t, plants likely won’t have enough reserves to make it through winter, he says. Even though cash flow might be tight this year due to low milk prices, also try to make sure soil fertility levels are adequate.

Allowing alfalfa to reach first flower means the plant will be higher in fiber and lower in protein. So target these cuttings to your lower milk producing groups, dry cows or heifers.

For more information on late summer alfalfa cutting management, click here.


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