Alfalfa is higher in total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) when cut in the afternoon vs. the morning, and produces more milk when fed to dairy cows.

That conclusion by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada confirms the findings of earlier U.S. studies.

In the Canadian trial, conducted in Quebec, the crop was cut at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. and ensiled in individually wrapped large rectangular bales at 50% moisture. Sixteen mid- to late-lactation cows were fed morning- or afternoon-cut silage for 24-day periods.

Cows fed afternoon-cut alfalfa consumed more dry matter (44 vs. 41.4 lbs/day) and produced more milk (44 vs. 42 lbs/day) than cows fed morning-cut alfalfa. Milk fat and milk protein tests also were higher.

“Overall, increased alfalfa silage TNC content with afternoon harvest resulted in improved performance of dairy cows,” the researchers concluded.