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Raise cutting height when first harvest is delay

Bruce Anderson Published on 09 February 2009

On occasion, rain delays many folks from taking their first cutting of alfalfa.

Even if your alfalfa is not blooming heavily, you might be surprised to find that shoots of the next cutting have already started to grow.

Before cutting, walk into your alfalfa field and examine the base or crown of the plants. Do you see short, new shoots starting to grow? If so, these are for the second cutting.

How tall are these new shoots? If they’re a couple inches taller than your usual cutting height and you cut these new shoots off with the first growth, your alfalfa plants will have to start a whole new set of shoots. This could delay regrowth and the second cutting by as much as a week.

To avoid this problem, raise your cutting height a couple inches. Since the stubble you leave behind has quite low feed value anyway, the yield you temporarily sacrifice is mostly just 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; however, a late cutting that already has new shoots growing is a different case and should be managed accordingly.  FG

—From University of Nebraska – Lincoln Crop Watch newsletter

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist
University of Nebraska – Lincoln