Alfalfa developed for biomass production makes good livestock feed when harvested at bud stage, say USDA-ARS and University of Minnesota researchers in St. Paul, MN.

They compared the forage quality of an experimental biomass alfalfa germplasm with that of a conventional variety when harvested at early bud (four times annually) and late flower (three times annually) stages of maturity. Field trials were established at two locations and harvested in 2007 and 2008.

Samples were analyzed for leaf percentage and stem NDF, NDF digestibility and lignin content. Both types of alfalfa were low in quality when harvested in full bloom. The biomass alfalfa was lower in quality than the conventional one, but the differences were minor when both were harvested at bud stage.

“Producers will have some flexibility in how they manage and utilize biomass alfalfa varieties,” say the researchers.