Livestock producers can graze alfalfa safely, says University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson. “Just be careful and realistic.”

Many factors make prospects for grazing alfalfa in late fall appealing, he says. “Usually the alfalfa is still quite green, despite several nights with low temperatures in the teens or even single digits. There has been some wilting and yellowing, but most leaves still are attached to the plant stems.”

While they can’t ever be 100% certain grazing won’t cause bloat, producers can take several steps to reduce the risk, Anderson says. These include:

• Making sure cows are turned out on alfalfa with full stomachs.

• Waiting until mid-day, after frost or dew is gone, before turning cattle out.

• Providing other dry, palatable feeds.

• Keeping a close eye on animals for at least the first couple days they’re on alfalfa.