Alfalfa Makes Sense!
Updated: Nov 28, 2018
Learn more about the many benefits of Alfalfa: the Queen of Forage Crops.
1 - Nutritional Sense
Low fiber - Low fiber content of alfalfa maximizes a cow’s daily dry matter intake while still meeting the animal’s rumen fiber requirements. Each additional pound of intake translates directly into increased milk production.
Protein - Protein is the largest supplemental expense on most dairy farms. Because alfalfa is high in protein, optimal use of alfalfa in the ration can reduce purchased supplement expenses.
High potassium - Dairy cattle need large quantities of potassium. Alfalfa supplies much
of the requirement.
High calcium - Alfalfa provides more calcium per ton than any other forage or grain. High milk production requires large amounts of calcium. More protein per acre - Alfalfa produces at least 3 times more protein per acre than other crops. Because protein remains the highest priced nutrient, alfalfa in the ration can significantly improve
2 - Economic Sense
Increased profits from alfalfa - Top dairymen know alfalfa is their most profitable crop. The high yield of high quality forage results in the greatest milk or meat production per acre of any forage. Alfalfa is cost competitive with corn silage on a dry matter basis. Check any farm management records program and see that alfalfa has been the most profitable crop when compared to other commodity crops over a
number of years.
Alfalfa benefits cropping systems - Alfalfa reduces nitrogen fertilizer expense for most
succeeding crops and provides a 10% to 15% yield boost to corn following alfalfa. Alfalfa also helps break disease and insect cycles for other crops, thereby reducing yield losses
and/or the need for insecticides.
Higher yields per acre - Improved varieties and better management tools continue to
increase yields of alfalfa.
3 - Reduced Risk
Reduced risk - Alfalfa is a rugged crop. Improved winterhardiness and disease resistance of new varieties continue to enhance its ability to grow and survive difficult conditions. Alfalfa also offers the opportunity for several cuttings during the year—bad conditions for one period don’t ruin the entire year’s forage supply.
Better production under droughty conditions - With its deep root system, alfalfa will continue to grow and produce more yield under moisture stress than most other crops.
Alfalfa begins to regrow once moisture conditions improve while most grain crops suffer irreversible yield loss.
A dependable crop for grazing - Grazing alfalfa or alfalfa-grass mixtures provides high quality forage well into the dry portion of hot summer months. New grazing-tolerant alfalfa varieties combined with improved winterhardiness will help extend persistence
of alfalfa under grazing—reducing production costs over other less drought tolerant
legumes and grasses.
4 - Conservation Sense
Reduced soil erosion and runoff - Alfalfa is recognized as an excellent ground cover.
Alfalfa reduces soil erosion and also reduces runoff of phosphorus and pesticides into streams and lakes. Alfalfa is one of the best crops for trapping nitrogen before it gets into groundwater due to its deep root system which extends below the shallow root-absorption zone of most other crops.
Added manure management options - Alfalfa provides opportunities for manure application several times a year. This helps producers spread their workload and minimize storage facilities.
Improved soil health - Since alfalfa is a perennial crop that lasts several years, only a
portion of a grower’s entire acreage needs to be seeded each spring. In many areas alfalfa can be seeded in the summer after canning crops or short season small grain crops, reducing the need to seed alfalfa into wet fields in early spring. Absence of tillage during the life of the stand reduces the breakdown of soil structure compared to annually tilled row crops.
Source: National Alfalfa Alliance, USA