Pure alfalfa might be the best choice for some livestock producers seeding new hayfields this year. But seeding alfalfa with grasses like orchardgrass or smooth brome may be a better alternative for others, says Bruce Anderson, forage specialist with University of Nebraska Extension.

An alfalfa-grass mix contains more total digestible nutrients (TDN) than a pure alfalfa stand. “Your cows actually could receive a more balanced diet,” he says. “Also, if you sometimes graze your hayfields, grass will reduce the risk of bloat.”

Another advantage of mixing things up is that grass can grow in areas where alfalfa is not well-adapted or fill in spots as alfalfa dies out. “This is better than having weeds invade bare areas.”

Mixes often dry more rapidly than alfalfa after cutting, so growers might get more hay made without rain damage. “And if it does rain, the mixture usually suffers less injury, both in the windrow and in the bale,” Anderson notes.

Protein yield may lag with a mix, but total tonnage usually is about the same or higher than that of a pure stand. Most of the grass yield will come at first cut, so regrowth will be mostly alfalfa.

One potential downside: Selling a mixture can be more difficult because dairies prefer pure alfalfa and grass is more difficult to grind, the forage specialist believes.

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