Dry, hot weather in Ohio has severely limited summer regrowth, says Mark Sulc, Ohio State University Extension forage specialist. But established alfalfa stands with enough growth – and where the alfalfa is dormant and dropping leaves – can be harvested as salvage feed, he says.
“Cutting the stand now should not hurt the stand, assuming it has already shut down due to drought stress,” he says. If that’s not economical, the stand could be safely grazed with bloat precautions.
Sulc doesn’t think mowing will help stimulate regrowth much, especially in grasses. He also doesn’t recommend mowing new alfalfa or grass seedings made this past spring if they are severely drought-stressed. “If weeds are a problem, then consider mowing high to remove seed heads before the seeds mature,” he adds.
If established grass stands don’t get significant rainfall soon, cutting “will likely intensify the stress and could do more damage to the stand. The little bit of growth present is helping to shade the soil surface and preventing even worse drying.”
Removing growth also reduces plant transpiration, decreasing its ability to cool as well as exposing soil to the sun and intensifying drought stress.
“If we get enough rain in the coming week or two to stimulate good fall growth of established alfalfa and mixed alfalfa-grass stands, no harvesting should be made until at least mid- to late October,” Sulc says.
“This will allow time for the plant to accumulate the energy reserves needed for winter survival and regrowth next spring. Even then, late fall cutting runs the risk of increases in heaving damage later in the winter, especially on heaving prone soils.”
Also remember to soil test and add recommended topdress fertilizer to permanent hay and pasture, he says.