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Does anyone here grow their own alfalfa? With prices going up and up and shipping prices going up and up as well, I am looking at growing as much of my own feed next year as possible. I hav ea bit of land for hay now and should be OK for straight hay, but was wondering about sowing a patch of Alfalfa to cut for hay.

Anyone got any advice?

hoggie
 

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Here in VA (central piedmont area) we have heavy clay soil and it doesn't grow Alfalfa well. I have planted it several times in an attempt to grow higher value hay, but with the heavy soil and lower ph it cannot compete with the grasses and red clover. We have several good stands of red clover and with good fertility and rain we can cut about once a month. Clover has about the same protein value as alfalfa.

In western VA the dairies there can grow alfalfa well, due to different soils and better ph. The only place we have had it to survive is in a lowground along a creek, which was drained swampland, so the soil is more loamy. There, the alfalfa has done about as well as the grass, and as you may know alfalfa has a very deep taproot (like 40 feet) so being along a creek it can sap water from the high water table even in summer drought.

Alfalfa needs:

ph-6-7
lots of P-K, less nitro.
well drained soil, not wet, but not dry either
loamy soil, not clay or sandy

With those things a cutting every 30 days is possible....but not here!
 

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Growing the alfalfa is usually not the problem. Drying it for quality hay isn't always so easy. I live in the hill country of Texas and it is too humid here for quality alfalfa.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I think it would dry OK here - in a normal ssummer that is :( Not sure about the land though - the patch I was going to put it on is a new patch to me this year and I have just cut hay off it so I don't know what it will grow yet. Time to get the soil test kit out I think

hoggie
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks bqz - that looks like a good resource.

No, we are using an old fashioned turner and square baler - nothing like a crimper around here I am afraid.

Timothy - is it really that nutricious - I know it is well looked for in hay but I didn't realise it was that good

hoggie
 

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We grow alfalfa, clover, timothy, and brome mix, but mostly Alfalfa.

This is the second hay-year for our 55 acre field and it is unbelievable, and we are nearly ready for a second cut, after just 30 days.

It is difficult to harvest a second cut this far north, but we may this year.

We got 234 huge round bales for the first cut, on 55 acres. That is excellent for our northern BC location. Our bales are 5'-6" round x 5'-0" long and weigh around 1400 or 1500 pounds. It is beautiful hay. Hope yours is great too, if you can grow it.


View to west, 55 ac nearly ready for 2nd cut


Near top of field, where 1st year growth was skimpy, now look at it.


Close up of Alfalfa and mix

Go for it, after you ask you neighbor and local ag person,

Alex

BTW Get the best, highest yeilding, most experimental seed your elevator recommends.
 

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Nearly any legume can be used for animal feed. Look into some kind of pea, vetch or clover that would do well there.
 

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Cyngbaeld said:
Nearly any legume can be used for animal feed. Look into some kind of pea, vetch or clover that would do well there.

Alfalfa does need the right climate & soils, but if you can grow it - it will way outproduce anything else you can grow for protien for bovines! You can't get 3-7 cuttings per year from anything else of high-protien good energy crop.

My state is in the top 5 for alfalfa growing, those of you in non-alfalfa areas don't realize what you are missing. It is way better than anything else - if you can grow it.

I'd think the fellow would have a real hard time drying it down to bale in his climate. Tedders tend to rip the leaves off, not crimping it tends to dry up the leaves to powder & the stems are stillw et.... Really takes a mower/ crimper combination to make good alfalfa. Or put it up for haylage.

--->Paul
 

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A lot of alfalfa is grown around the area where I live in south central Kansas. Nearly every Amish farmer grows considerable excess to sell at the livestock sale barn.

I have overheard talk and the alfalfa here must be sprayed with insecticide almost every year for some pest.

Most of the fields are only in production a few short years before another area is planted. I think it has sometime to do with weeds taking over. Expect the glyphosate ready seed would help with that.

I don't know if this url to forage test plots will help at all or not. It is for my area and give home page gives various feed crops.
http://kscroptests.agron.ksu.edu/06/06alf/6a-rnd4.asp?Loc=rnd4

Do any of you pasture your alfalfa? I forget what is used to prevent bloat, but I know of many that used to pasture it off instead of harvesting it. Stocker cattle of course.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
HHmmm - it is starting to sound as though alfalfa might not be the crop for me. I am not in a position to even start looking at a crimper at the moment. Also the talk of insecticides worries me - I am strongly against chemical use and that would worry me. I don't know how we would get on with drying it, biggest problem would be whether the weather would give us enough time to get multiple cuts from it - presumably, like anything else, it goes over if you can't cut it in time?

Cyngbaeld may be right - maybe I should oversow one of my fields with clover - might be more reliable.

I am not looking for a cash crop here - everything we ship to the island costs £100/ton shipping plus £20 customs clearance and hay/straw of any sort costs about £5/bale just to ship. So before I expand my animal enterprises too much, I am trying to find ways of growing as much of my own feed as possible.

hoggie
 

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I'm sorry that I hadn't noted your location before, but you may just want to ask around to see if your area has any insect problems, also if a crimper is needed to aid in drying.

Several decades ago crimpers weren't around yet. Farmers would use rakes (now tedders) to turn the windrows to aid in drying. Perhaps that would work for you. Of course with the turning you do lose some leafy material.
 
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