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Central MN Alfalfa Scissors-Cut Data May 23, 2013

by Dan Martens, Extension Educator, Stearns-Benton-Morrison Counties

Posted originally May 23 10 p.m. UPDATED May 24 5 p.m.

The "PDF" document listed here is Central MN Alfalfa Harvest Alert scissors-cut data and PEAQ readings received so far for May 23. We will be getting more information from May 23 and I will update the "PDF" document listed here and note when it was updated. We will take samples again on Tuesday May 28.
Alfalfa Field Data May 23 2013.pdf

If we get warmer weather with some sunshine, we could expect significant growth and maturing by Tuesday May 28. Some showers are in the forecast. Earlier fields could be ready for harvest by June 1. More people might be taking a closer look at the fields and the weather during the first week in June. It might be by the time the weather gives us a chance to harvest hay, the crop will be plenty ready.

For more information about using and interpreting information from alfalfa scissors-cut sampling or in using PEAQ sticks, go to


Craig Sheaffer:
This spring because of winter injury, there will be more uneven growth than normal so flowering among plants within a field will not be uniform. Letting the crop grow longer will strengthen the root system for production this year, as well as looking ahead to next year. Stressed plants may not start as many buds. For that purpose going to more bloom would do the most good. You have to balance that with short and long term feed needs.

Dan Undersander:
Quality forage is demanded due to high price of grain and on the other hand cutting early will hurt the alfalfa stand.  I think we should encourage a compromise.  This means cutting at the absolute minimum quality needed (e.g. cut at 170 for dairy, 150 for dairy heifers and beef), fertilizing well (especially potassium and sulfur) and getting hay/haylage off field as quickly as possible to encourage regrowth.  Remember that we generally have moisture in early June for regrowth and may be drier in late June and July.

In doing this we are taking some risk with stand total yield for the season but farmers need forage now, and need to be able to pay the bills so we need to minimize corn purchase (at least until the price falls this fall).

Jim Paulson says there are a number of things to think about:

What area are we talking about? Southern MN or central and north? What are the ages of the stands? How do they look? Is the farm up on their fertility? In the southern area where we saw the problem more, most of the older stands are gone so the younger stands are most likely healthier. The safe agronomic approach is to let it get some age, usually we say that for the second or third cuts. We also know that age of the plant is so critical to quality and age of first cut is really difficult to determine. When did it start to grow?

So that being said, I wouldn't be overly aggressive, but I still would cut for 150 RFQ or better haylage. People desperate for feed don't have a lot of choices.

Dan Martens:
I hope I've represented these three perspectives correctly. In the end the weather might make some of these decisions for us. Farmers know a lot about working toward a goal and then doing the best they can with the cards that are dealt - being ready with Plan A.... and then being ready with Plan B.

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