Table of Contents
- Seven steps to follow in order to yield high-quality alfalfa:
I suppose you have asked yourself How to start a hay field? well when it comes to making hay, harvest season is when the majority of the hard work is done. Producing hay is a labor-intensive process that requires up to four trips across the field to cut, rake, bale, and carry alfalfa. In the Midwest, there are often four to five harvests per season.
According to Anderson Bruce, a forage specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, hay has the potential to be profitable and competitive with other crops. You just need to use the proper management techniques and pray for cooperative weather.
Seven steps to follow in order to yield high-quality alfalfa:
1. Select a relevant field.
According to Bruce, the pH of the soil should be between 6.5 and 7 for alfalfa to develop vigorously. In a perfect world, you would pick a field where you are confident there have never been weed problems. You should think about other alfalfa kinds and herbicide options if you must use it in a weed-prone environment.
2. Use the appropriate seed type.
For a greater chance at a healthy, prolific harvest, Bruce advises selecting an alfalfa type that is more digestible and low in lignin.
3. Consistently scout the hay field.
In most alfalfa fields, two visits each week should be plenty. Be vigilant for symptoms of illness or pests like the potato leaf hopper and alfalfa weevil.
4. Harvest alfalfa at the ideal moment.
Timing the mowing to coincide with several dry days is challenging enough without taking crop development into account. Cut at a reasonably early stage of ripeness, prior to blossoming, to maximize the feed value. According to Anderson, if a crop is left uncut for an extended period of time, the coarse stem will become harder for livestock to digest.
5. Prepare yourself for successful drying.
After cutting the hay, put it out in broad windrows and run it through a conditioner that has been appropriately calibrated. The hay will receive the maximum amount of solar exposure as a result, which will hasten its drying process.
6. Rely on the moisture content.
The most valuable component of alfalfa is its leaves, which can easily be destroyed if the crop is handled when it is too damp. Bruce advises raking the hay while it is still moist to prevent significant leaf loss. To rake hay without shaking off leaves, the window must be very small. For large square bales, Bruce advises moisture levels of 14–15%, for huge round bales, 17–18%, and for tiny square bales, 18–20%.
7. Use wise bale-storing of hay practices.
To prevent loss, bales need to be protected from the elements. Bales should ideally be kept in sheds or covered by tarps for storage. In order to ensure that sunlight may reach both sides of round bales when stored outside, Bruce advises placing the bales in rows that face north and south.