Always condition alfalfa that will be put up as dry hay. But when making wide swaths for haylage, choose to condition or not based on temperature and humidity, advises New Holland's Bill Sowers.

He recommends conditioning the first and fourth haylage cuttings in the Upper Midwest. But if the second and third cuttings are mowed on hot days with low humidity, open the conditioning rolls to lengthen the time in the chopping window.

Although conditioned and unconditioned alfalfa dry at almost the same rate until they reach 68% moisture, “we believe conditioning gets you to the 55-65% haylage chopping window slightly faster,” says Sowers. An extra 30 minutes to an hour of chopping can mean the difference between getting the crop off that day or letting it lay overnight and decline in quality.

Once the crop drops below 68%, conditioned alfalfa in wide swaths dries much faster, sometimes so fast it can't all be chopped within the recommended moisture range. Leaving it unconditioned in hot, dry weather can give you more time to put it up properly, says Sowers.

“You can also opt to narrow the swath down some on the back end of the field to delay drying on hot days and extend the chopping moisture window,” he says. “Remember to double-pack bunks as you approach the 55% bottom threshold, because it is harder to do a good job of packing the drier crop.”