University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Extension in your Community > Meeker > County Agriculture Educator > Articles > Plans Underway for 2019 Alfalfa Harvest Alert Project

print icon email icon share icon

Plans Underway for 2019 Alfalfa Harvest Alert Project

Source:  Nathan Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension

University of Minnesota Extension is working with the Central Minnesota Forage Council, agribusinesses, and farmers on the Alfalfa Harvest Alert Project again this year.  Cooperator sites have been arranged in Stearns, Benton, Morrison, and Wright Counties. Information will also be shared from Meeker, McLeod, Carver, and Sibley Counties similar to what has been done in the past.  The goal of this project is to encourage farmers to stay in tune with their fields related to their feed needs and past experiences.

This project kicks off when alfalfa reaches around 14 to 16 inches tall.  Project cooperators will sample fields Monday and Thursday mornings.  Generally when alfalfa gets around 24 inches tall, we can expect to start seeing buds.  With alfalfa the bud stage is usually when forage quality is in the range for better quality dairy hay and harvest takes place provided weather cooperates.  Normally the last 10 days of May is when harvest occurs, but this varies based on the weather and winter injury.  Last year alfalfa sample collection started on May 14th and ended on June 1st. 

Clipped samples are tested to determine Relative Feed Value (RFV), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), and other alfalfa quality factors related to harvest decisions. Quality and maturity will also be estimated through an equation called the “Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality” (PEAQ).  This process uses the stage of maturity and height of the tallest stems to estimate RFV and NDF.

The RFV numbers correspond to what you could expect from a fresh cut sample lab test. Due to forage and harvest losses, there could be a 15 to 25 point drop from what the fresh cut sample test or PEAQ chart indicates.  So if your goal was 175 RFV, you might start harvesting when the fresh cut test of PEAQ chart indicates 200 RFV. Consider your own nutrition goals and past experience when deciding on the proper time to harvest alfalfa. 

The Alfalfa Harvest Alert Project information will be shared with KASM 1150 AM and KTLF 960 AM radio in the Stearns, Benton, and Morrison county area. Internet users can search for “Minnesota Crop News” for posted information.  You can check for messages on a voicemail box by calling 320-968-5081 or by calling 1-800-964-4929 and entering 5081 when it answers.  Other counties will be working with other radio stations and information access points.  Questions about this project can be referred to Nathan Drewitz at the phone numbers listed.  We appreciate the hard work by all of the farm and agribusiness cooperators and sponsors for this project.