Consider Planting Grass-Alfalfa Mixtures this Year March 22, 2017
Are you planting a new hay field this year? Instead of automatically planting pure alfalfa, consider mixing grass into your planting.
Often hay growers in our area plant new fields to pure alfalfa without even thinking about alternatives. For many, pure alfalfa is the best choice, however, for others it may be better to mix in orchardgrass, smooth brome, festulolium, or another grass.
A grass-alfalfa mixture offers several advantages:
- If you regularly feed more than 5 or 6 pounds of alfalfa per day to stock cows during winter, they probably are getting more than enough protein but may not be getting enough TDN or energy. Mixing grass with alfalfa usually lowers the protein but slightly increases the TDN content of hay, giving your cows a more balanced diet.
- If the hay field is grazed, grass will reduce the risk of bloat.
- Grass can grow where alfalfa is not well-adapted or fill in spots as alfalfa dies out. This is better than having weeds invade bare areas.
- Grass-alfalfa mixtures often dry out more rapidly after cutting than pure alfalfa so you might get more hay made without rain damage. If it does rain, the mixture usually suffers less injury, both in the windrow and in the bale.
- Total tonnage usually is about the same or higher than pure stands, but protein yield may be lower with the mix. Most grass yield will come at first cut, so regrowth will be mostly alfalfa.
Remember though, a mixture may be more difficult to sell because dairies prefer pure alfalfa and grass is more difficult to grind.