Make sure alfalfa hay is not moldy or dusty. But what is hay? Alfalfa regrowth is a rich source of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. Cattle won’t eat it well; coarse stems are hard to chew. However, pasture bloat continues to impede the widespread adoption of alfalfa grazing systems, although, numerous technologies are presently being tested for bloat prevention. As such, the ideal time to harvest alfalfa is during early growth when the feed is of superior quality. "As for planning the quantity of alfalfa to raise or buy, you might consider feeding adult cows an average of five pounds per day during low-quality forage feeding," said Cole. This type of grass hay is often cheaper to purchase than alfalfa, orchard, or Timothy hay. As such, farmers are actively seeking for more highly nutritional feed that is also affordable. Therefore, dairy cows can feed on alfalfa hay as a means to increase milk production. Whether you can get adequate value from alfalfa hay depends on feeding conditions. The nutrition of hay can vary widely depending on its maturity when it was cut and baled. The rapid microbial colonization and digestion of alfalfa reduces particle size and increases the passage of digesta from the rumen, enabling the animal to consume greater quantities of forage. While mycotoxins (mold poisons) are the main concern, molds themselves can adversely affect health and productivity of cattle. This will create bigger swings in nutrition and a greater risk for cattle to bloat. Anderson warns, “Alfalfa reacts two ways to a hard freeze, down close to 20 degrees F, cold enough to cause plants to wilt. The cows on alfalfa hay alone produced 83 percent as much milk and a little less than 85 percent as much butterfat as the cows that were fed alfalfa hay and grain. High- quality grass forages with a protein content of 11 to 13 percent are recommended for dry cows and springing heifers. ** Assumes average to poor quality grass hay, or crop residues. Alfalfa can be used as: An important point to note when providing alfalfa to livestock is that its nutritional value is dependent on the time of harvest. While making dry hay can be challenging, and even discouraging some years, alfalfa haylage will work at least as nice as dry hay … Some molds can cause respiratory problems or abortion in pregnant cows. Straw vs Hay: What is Hay? Although all hay contains some mold, when mold becomes easily noticeable, the decisions become important. “The leaves fall out of the hay as it’s fed,” says Shewmaker. This fact sheet discusses the advantages, disadvantages, and limitations of feeding alfalfa hay to beef cows. In our experience, cattle that have not grazed alfalfa will invariably consume most of the other forages (ex, grasses, dandelions) that are present in pasture. John PoppManitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, Tim McAllisterAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Walter MajakAgriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Bjorn BergAlberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Prevention of Pasture Bloat in Cattle Grazing Alfalfa, Comptrollership Support Services Division, Production and Economic Development Division, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, For Researchers and Industry Service Providers, Burning of Crop Residue and Non-Crop Herbage Regulation, Impact of the Manitoba Crop Residue Burning Program, Estimating Program Uptake and the Nature of Costs-Benefits in Agro-Manitoba, Study aims to provide new tools for farmers dealing with excess moisture, Intergrated Watershed Management Planning, Basic Good Manufacturing Practices Program, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), Federal Acts and Regulations Dealing with Food, Manitoba Acts and Regulations Dealing with Food, Provincial Food Processing and Distribution, Food and Value Added Agriculture Statistics, Manitoba Weather Network Existing Stations, Commercial Community Kitchens For Rent Listing. Hay or grass is the foundation of the diet for all grazing animals and can provide as much as 100% of the fodder required for an animal. The bottom line is that producers should feed some alfalfa. Let’s start with hay. Hay containing greater than 10 parts per million of dicoumarol should be fed with caution. Monitor grazing of the cattle. Whereas this rapid digestion and particle size reduction is responsible for the high productivity of cattle on alfalfa pasture, it also is in part responsible for bloat. approaching 90%. Due to its high nutrient content, it counters protein deficiencies allowing for the rapid growth of beef cattle. Like cattle, goats, elk, and deer, sheep have four stomach chambers. Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress, Alfalfa for Physiological Development of Young Cattle. Alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hayfields are widely utilized as a “hay-stockpile” system in Montana and the northern Great Plains. They can be used for grazing higher performance cattle, such as stockers, grass-finished cattle, lactating dairy cows, or as a creep for beef calves. Cows eat a mixture of food which includes grass silage, hay, alfalfa hay, grains, and let’s not forget corn. Although cows can eat alfalfa, it may cause bloat which is often detrimental to health, productivity as well profitability. Alfalfa is a rich source of protein, calcium and has an ideal fibre content hence it is highly palatable to cattle. Alfalfa is typically the cheapest feed supplement in late summer and early fall when grazing cows in their mid-trimester of pregnancy on low quality forages. Have "escape" pastures, the ability to exit from alfalfa if conditions for grazing are very poor. By itself, alfalfa is too high in calcium and protein for healthy goats and should be limited to sick, pregnant, or debilitated animals. Cows use those nutrients from the alfalfa hay to make something really useful: milk. Posted by Agric Site | Cattle, Feed, Livestock | 0. Various agricultural research have indicated that cows can eat alfalfa so at to acquire the nutrients needed for daily substance. It was really dry here in Southern Ontario this past summer so there is very little grass that grew back for second cut so its almost pure alfalfa. Alfalfa regrowth is a rich source of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. The level of protein in alfalfa tends to decline while its fibre content increases as it matures. At least 10 to 20 percent of soybean hay is wasted during feeding due to the coarse stems. The success of a livestock rearing agricultural venture is largely dependent on feed. This makes it easier for farmers to stock up on hay, especially during winters. Alfalfa is not recommended as the only forage for dry cows because of its high calcium content. Alfalfa aftermath in late summer and autumn is a high-quality pasture for preconditioning calves or putting body condition on bred cows. This hay is similar to a good quality alfalfa grass hay. However, as these forages become depleted, the risk of bloat increases and such a scenario is often responsible for bloat outbreaks two to three days after animals have been moved to a new pasture. Removing the animals from the pasture and reintroducing them at a later date often only increases the risk of bloat, unless the initial grazing attempt was made in the bud or pre-bud stage of growth. If rotational grazing is used, care should be taken to ensure that the initial paddock is not over grazed to the point that animals are hungry when they are introduced into a fresh paddock. Do you know what alfalfa is? Lesser Grass Hays. Due to it high levels of protein, alfalfa is often used for creep grazing suckling calves up until animals reach maturity. This in turn helps buffer the pH changes and decrease the incidence of health problems such as ruminal acidosis. You would not have cattle on 20 lbs barley, drop them down to 5 lbs (ie, grazing down to roots) and then back up to 20 lbs. Concentrates Cows eat alfalfa hay as part of their diet. With high alfalfa forage feeding, a similar problems is experienced. It would be similar to us eating dried fruit, for example. To add on, cows can feed on alfalfa so as to absorb trace nutrients that are essential in health maintenance. Alfalfa is one of the few forages that is capable of sustaining levels of production that are comparable to those achieved in the feedlot. A: It depends. Instead, just a few pounds of alfalfa a day really helps the cows. Also, although cows can feed on alfalfa, excess feed can be detrimental to health. Awesome Alfalfa! Although cows can eat alfalfa, it may cause bloat which is often detrimental to health, productivity as well profitability. “If you consider the whole system — from putting up the hay through feeding it — for beef or dairy cows, a dew simulator and/or preservative to put up alfalfa with better leaf retention might be economically positive. The oily substance can contaminate the hay even if the beetles were crushed into the feedstuff. Alfalfa is recognized as one of the most nutritious forages available and is widely used as conserved forage (ex, hay, silage) in the diets of beef and dairy cattle. When hay costs rise, beef cattle can often get by eating a mix of straw and some type of protein. The cost of feed is often beyond the financial capacity of most farmers. Forage can be a grass, or a legume such as alfalfa. Crushing or chemically eradicating the beetles does not diminish the toxin potency. Alfalfa for Physiological Development of Young Cattle Management issues for feeding hay with sweet clover Alfalfa hay should be fed in bunks, troughs or in hay racks with feed troughs beneath to catch shattered leaves. Alfalfa’s high protein content makes it ideal for milk-producing livestock and animals with high energy requirements. Ensure that food for cows will be available all yearlong, grass and alfalfa are dried to make hay. Required fields are marked *. This build-up usually isn't hazardous to grazing animals, but green chop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous.” 3. In addition, it contains a significant amount of carbohydrates and minerals including calcium, phosphorus as well as magnesium. Alfalfa contains approximately 18% protein, depending on the time of harvest. 2 to 5 pm is better. Cattle generally have three to four grazing bouts per day on alfalfa pastures. Even for a limited few who can afford commercially produced supplementary feed during dry seasons, they become financially strained as the cost in turn affects the price of produce. Cows eat a mixture of food which includes grass silage, hay, alfalfa hay, grains, and let’s not forget corn. Bloat risk is highest when alfalfa is in vegetative to early bloom stages of growth. 3. Some molds can cause respiratory problems or abortion in pregnant cows. There are various different types of hay available such as timothy, alfalfa, etc. Second cutting alfalfa can entice those cows to eat hay for another couple of weeks - long enough for the new grass to grow up tall enough to sustain the cows, and to sustain itself. During these periods of high risk, animals should be observed for symptoms of bloat more often as these conditions often lead to multiple bloats or bloat storms. 6. Alfalfa is typically the cheapest feed supplement in late summer and early fall when grazing cows in their mid-trimester of pregnancy on low quality forages. To add on, the high mineral content found in alfalfa plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of bones, teeth, muscle contraction as well as milk production. Cattle won’t eat it well; coarse stems are hard to chew. Alfalfa is ranked as one of the best feeds for breeding cattle, young growing stock as well as for fattening livestock. However, the utilization of alfalfa by grazing beef cattle has been limited due to its propensity to cause pasture bloat. Bloat prevention technologies can be coupled with management to allow one to have a sounder night's sleep. Hay is forage (grass and alfalfa) that has been cut, dried, and made into bales. High- quality grass forages with a protein content of 11 to 13 percent are recommended for dry cows and springing heifers. If you have some cows that calf in the fall, they are at the highest stage they ever will be for their nutritional requirements. As such, the proposed solution is to mix alfalfa with concentrates so as to achieve a well-balanced feed.  These should be given in proportions that maximise milk production. Consequently, familiarity with the grazing patterns of the cattle can enable producers to adjust their management practices to observe the animals during times of greatest bloat risk. Alfalfa hay should be fed in bunks, troughs or in hay racks with feed troughs beneath to catch shattered leaves. Moving during rain is not as dangerous as about two days after a rain when it is hot. Maintenance of normal metabolism and health are common problems with high concentrate feeding. If you give the alfalfa first, they’ll ignore the timothy or drag it out of the feeder searching for the last bits of alfalfa! If you are asking about sheep, goats, and cattle, the answer is no. Cows come into contact with cantharidin by ingesting alfalfa hay that has been infested by blister beetles. This means that it is rapidly cleared thereby stimulating intake. Although there are few experiments to prove the concept, most experienced producers would agree that cattle must learn to graze alfalfa. Knowledge of the interactions between the animal, plant and environment factors that lead to bloat is the key to profitable grazing alfalfa with minimal death loss. Alfalfa is relatively cheaper than and just as nutritious as commercially produced feed supplements. However, the part that is eaten can be equal to average quality alfalfa in feeding value. It is recommended to use this type of forage as a protein source for cattle being fed poor quality hay and grain. In fact, dairy farmers prefer alfalfa hay to any other types of forage. However, as many a dairy farmer can attest to, cattle can still bloat on alfalfa hay, and long term frozen alfalfa should be considered bloat reduced, not bloat safe. 4. It's what they eat in the winter when they don't have access to grazing ground. Thus, the notion that alfalfa is bloat-safe after a frost is a fallacy. Mixing with a good quality grass hay will suffice for most dry cows. Alfalfa is not recommended as the only forage for dry cows because of its high calcium content. This may result in a false sense of security as cattle will seldom bloat while these alternative forages remain in the stand. Forage gap filler: Alfalfa can be used for grazing throughout most of the grazing season. Ruminants are unique in their ability to readily digest the cell wall components of forages and it is this ability that gives them a competitive advantage over other meat producing animals. They can support daily gains of 2 lbs or more and have produced on average 790 lbs of beef per acre. Increased management and the risk of bloat can be seen as the cost that is associated with the high levels of productivity and associated profitability that are possible with grazing alfalfa. Environmental factors that interrupt regular grazing bouts on alfalfa pasture such as storms, exceptionally hot weather or biting flies can alter intake patterns and increase the risk of bloat. Early harvested hay generally has a higher nutritional value which declines as time progresses. Ingestion of moldy feed or hay can potentially cause mycotic (fungal) abortion, respiratory effects, decreased feed consumption and rate … Cows can eat alfalfa to acquire the necessary nutrients and minerals for growth, maintenance, lactation as well as reproduction. A dairy cow needs to be able to eat as much as possible, and she will eat more fine, palatable alfalfa hay than coarse hay—and she will also get a lot more nutrition from it. It is likely that the risk of bloat in frozen alfalfa decreases with time as proteins complex with carbohydrate in a manner similar to that achieved with wilting or drying. If soybean hay is chopped in a tub grinder, cows will eat practically all of it. Alfasure liquid bloat product is 100% effective in preventing bloat and can be used during risk periods. They can be used for grazing higher performance cattle, such as stockers, grass-finished cattle, lactating dairy cows, or as a creep for beef calves. Protein and nutrition is mainly in the leaves, so stemmy hay is less nutritious and low in protein. Alfalfa is universally considered as an excellent forage for livestock. Instead, just a few pounds of alfalfa a day really helps the cows. The grain feeding apparently had little eflect on the amount of hay consumed. Avoid stemmy, coarse alfalfa. Depends on how moldy as to how much they eat. This is not, however, a good plan for feeding horses, who can … Like most answers on the farm, it depends. Uniform and regular intake is the key to managing animals on alfalfa pastures. Bales of orchard grass or other forage will be just fine for a small herd of beef cattle. Hay is an energy source. However, the utilization of alfalfa by grazing beef cattle has been limited due to its propensity to cause pasture bloat. A third group of cows fed the alfalfa hay ration and the grain and hay ration in alter- Feeding moldy hay to livestock is a tough decision. Alfalfa is an excellent source of protein for cattle, but rich alfalfa hay can create health problems, including scours and enterotoxemia, for young calves if their mamas are milking too heavily during the first couple months of lactation. As alfalfa enters into the full bloom or post bloom stages, soluble protein levels decrease, plant cell walls thicken, lignin content increases and the rate of digestion of alfalfa in the rumen decreases. Moldy hay has been fed to cattle for years. Mixing with a good quality grass hay will suffice for most dry cows. If soybean hay is chopped in a tub grinder, cows will eat practically all of it. Anything less will give you just that: less. 4. A combination of home grown hay, purchased alfalfa hay and a mineral supplement can be used to balance the nutritional needs of the cow herd during critical periods of the year. Although you might occasionally feed alfalfa hay or provide turnout on an alfalfa pasture for pregnant or nursing ewes and their babies or sheep recovering from illness, generally speaking alfalfa has too much protein and calcium for sheep. 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