Raise Cutting Height When First Alfalfa Harvest Is Delayed - UNL CropWatch, June 3, 2011

Raise Cutting Height When First Alfalfa Harvest Is Delayed - UNL CropWatch, June 3, 2011

June 2, 2011

With all the recent rains, many growers may not have been able to take their first cutting of alfalfa yet. At the same time, some alfalfa may have already initiated new growth for the second cutting. 

Before cutting, walk into your alfalfa field and look closely at the base or crown of the plants. Do you see short, new shoots starting to grow? If so, these are the new plants that your alfalfa hopes to turn into your second cutting.

Look closely at these shoots. Are they several inches taller than your usual cutting height? If you cut these new shoots off — along with the first growth — your alfalfa plants will have to start a whole new set of shoots for regrowth. This could delay second cutting regrowth by as much as a week.

You can avoid this problem by raising your cutting height just a couple inches so you avoid clipping off most of these new, second growth shoots. This regrowth will have a head start toward the next cutting. The stubble that’s left behind has low feed value so you’re basically sacrificing filler.

Normally I suggest leaving as short a stubble as possible when cutting alfalfa because that maximizes yield and doesn’t affect rate of regrowth, but a late cutting that already has new shoots growing is different.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist