How to Grow Alfalfa Grass | Guide to Growing Alfalfa Grass

 
How to Grow Alfalfa Grass | Guide to Growing Alfalfa Grass  

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High in protein and minerals, Alfalfa hay is a high-energy feed source for cattle, horses and sheep. Dairy cows in particular have much to benefit from the high rate of protein contained in Alfalfa, sometimes exceeding 25% of mass. Also well-suited to younger animals or those with greater protein needs. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime.

 
   
 

Seed

5-7 days

4 years

Deep, well-drained, fertile

Part shade to full sun

For hay, thin to 12-18" or less

Cattle, horses, sheep

60 for hay

Growing Guide
GROWING NOTES

For livestock feed, alfalfa can be collected as blooms begin to open and used for hay, or broadcast and used for grazing. If growing for hay, sow seeds 4-6" apart and thin to 6-12", depending on rate of growth and other factors.

 

Alfalfa will grow better if started after the last frost of the spring, once established grass stands in other locations start to show steady growth. Alfalfa can be started at any point during the growing season, once conditions become favorable. Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall.

 

A well-prepared seedbed is essential to healthy alfalfa plants. This should be done 6 months or more prior to the expected planting date to ensure that added amendments have significant time to react with soil. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher.

 

Alfalfa will take better in the presence of high amounts of phosphorus and potassium.

 

When sowing, be cautious not to sow seeds too deeply. Seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately ¼", and no deeper than ½". Seeds sown deeper may not be able to break through the surface of the soil. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. For best results, fertilize concurrently as you sow with an organic blend high in phosphorus and potassium.


MAINTAINING

Once established, alfalfa is hardy and will grow with relative ease. It can survive with moderate water and sunlight, and is relatively tolerant of drought and other conditions.

 

Alfalfa stands can be depleted unless rotational grazing is practiced. Generally, the same paddock (partitioned division of a field) should not be grazed more than four days in a row, though this can vary depending on the size of the paddock and number of animals. It is generally recommended to create and maintain 6-8 or more paddocks that can be rotated to allow enough time for regrowth between grazings.

 

Alfalfa stands can be depleted unless rotational grazing is practiced. Generally, the same paddock (partitioned division of a field) should not be grazed more than four days in a row, though this can vary depending on the size of the paddock and number of animals. It is generally recommended to create and maintain 6-8 or more paddocks that can be rotated to allow enough time for regrowth between grazings.


 
   
     
   
 

Harvesting Guide

HARVESTING

Harvesting of alfalfa hay typically occurs approximately 60 days after germination with a spring sowing. Under ideal conditions, as many as three harvests can be made in one season if the growing season is long enough.

 

The traditional recommendation on harvesting alfalfa hay is to collect once 1 in every 10 blossoms has opened. Producing blossoms is very energy intensive, and waiting too long can result in excessive energy needlessly going into this process from the plant.

 

However, this can be somewhat difficult to assess. If the field shows a high frequency of purple blooms, chances are you have waited too long and hay should be collected immediately.

 

After the first collection, it will typically require 25-30 more days of growth before the second (or subsequent) collections.


SAVING SEEDS

 


 
     
 

Livestock Feed and Forage

 

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