If your first alfalfa harvest is late, you may need to raise the cutting height to protect second-growth shoots, warns Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage agronomist.

Even if the crop isn’t blooming heavily, it might already have new shoots at the base or crown of plants, and many of them may be taller than your usual cutting height, says Anderson. Cutting them off will delay second-cutting regrowth by as much as a week.

“Fortunately, you can avoid this delay,” he says. “All you need to do is raise your cutting height just a couple inches so that you avoid clipping off most of these new, second-growth shoots. Your regrowth then will have a head start towards next cutting. And since the stubble you leave behind has quite low feed value anyway, the yield you temporarily sacrifice is mostly just filler.

“Normally I suggest leaving as short a stubble as possible when cutting alfalfa because that maximizes yield and doesn’t affect rate of regrowth,” he adds. “But a late cutting that already has new shoots growing is different.”