Alfalfa: Special Considerations
If properly harvested and stored, alfalfa silage can provide a high-quality forage with fewer risks of damage due to weather. For high-quality silage, field wilt alfalfa to a moisture content of 60 to 70 percent before ensiling for conventional upright, bunk, or pit silos or round bale silage; and to 40 to 60 percent moisture for sealed upright silos. Making a good, tight pack ensures an oxygen-free environment and depends on fineness of chop, moisture content, and rate of fill. Silage preservatives, additives, and inoculants may improve silage fermentation in some cases, but they are not a substitute for proper management.
Used at recommended rates and properly applied, organic acid preservatives make it possible to successfully store alfalfa hay when it has been baled at up to 25 percent moisture. In addition, chemical drying agents applied during mowing can reduce drying time.
Determining when to rotate from alfalfa to another crop such as corn can be difficult. Two rules of thumb, however, can be helpful in this decision-making process. Once alfalfa plant density drops below 4 to 5 plants per square foot or stem density drops below 40 to 50 stems per square foot, it is no longer economical to maintain the stand.