Consider Grass-Alfalfa Mixtures Instead Of Pure Alfalfa

Consider Grass-Alfalfa Mixtures Instead Of Pure Alfalfa

April 4, 2008 

Are you going to plant a new hay field next spring? Instead of automatically planting pure alfalfa, think about mixing some grass into your planting.

For many growers, pure alfalfa is the best choice, but for others, adding some grass, like orchardgrass, may be better.

Advantages of Grass-Alfalfa Mixture

If you regularly feed more than five or six 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. Mixing grass with alfalfa usually lowers the protein, but slightly increases the TDN content of hay. Your cows actually could receive a more balanced diet. Also, if you sometimes graze your hay fields, grass will reduce the risk of bloat.

Also, 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.

Protein yield per acre may be less with the mix, but total tonnage will be about the same or higher than pure stands. Most of the grass yield will come at the first cutting, so regrowth will be mostly alfalfa. Selling a mixture can be more difficult, though, because dairies prefer pure alfalfa and grass is more difficult to grind.

You know alfalfa is good, but in some situations, mixing it with grass is better.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist