Spring showers are great until they overstay their welcome. With excessive flooding in some areas and daily showers in others, some producers find themselves struggling to get their first cut in storage. If this applies to you, consider taking the “high cut” road when harvesting alfalfa.
Bruce Anderson, extension forage specialist for the University of Nebraska, advises producers to first scout their delayed fields in search of new growth at the base of the alfalfa plants. If new shoots are visible at the crown, remember these shoots represent new growth for the next cutting.
If these shoots are above your typical harvest height, their removal with the rest of the crop can adversely affect subsequent yields.
“Your alfalfa plants will have to start a whole new set of shoots for regrowth if the existing shoot growth is cut,” Anderson says. “This could cause a delay in second cutting regrowth by as much as one week.” Anderson also points out that the remaining taller stubble is low-quality stem material.
Although Anderson typically advises cutting alfalfa low, cutting higher if the harvest is delayed can prevent damaging new growth. This will offer the benefit of a more vigorous second cutting.
Lauren Peterson is serving as the 2017 Hay & Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She is from Wyanet, Ill., and currently attends Kansas State University where she is pursuing a degree in agricultural communications and journalism. While at school, Lauren works at the KSU dairy farm and is an active member of the Horseman’s Association.