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Alfalfa Harvest Alert Program kicks off for 2024

Taylor Herbert, Extension educator

With spring just around the corner, alfalfa fields are greening up and it won’t be too long before we are thinking about the first cut of hay. The goal of the Alfalfa Harvest Alert program is to help forage producers make a decision on the first cut of alfalfa to optimize forage yield and quality. This project is in its 28th year and is a collaboration between the Central Minnesota Forage Council and University of Minnesota Extension in conjunction with various agribusinesses sponsors, and farmers. Cooperator sites have been arranged in Stearns, Benton, Morrison, Wright, McLeod, Sibley, Nicollet, and Carver counties.

How the program works

Estimating alfalfa quality using the PEAQ stick.
This project kicks off when alfalfa reaches between 14 to 16 inches tall. Cuttings of sample fields will be taken on Monday and Thursday mornings and sent for analysis to determine Relative Feed Quality (RFQ), Relative Feed Value (RFV), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), and other alfalfa quality factors related to harvest decisions. Quality and maturity will also be estimated through an equation called the “Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality” (PEAQ) RFV. This process uses the stage of maturity and height of the tallest stems to estimate RFV and NDF.

Generally, when alfalfa gets around 24 inches tall, we can expect to start seeing buds. The bud stage is usually when there is more biomass for greater hay yields and quality is still high enough for use as a dairy forage and harvest takes place. Last year, alfalfa sample collection started on May 15th and ended on May 25th.

Alfalfa Harvest Alert data tool

The Alfalfa Harvest Alert Data Tool is active again this year and contains data going back to the program's start in 1997. This tool allows you to select and sort data by year, county, and grower to look back and compare RFV, RFQ, and PEAQ RFV. As the 2024 season progresses this will be the home for all collected information and will remain active throughout the entire year. To get the most up-to-date data throughout this year’s sampling, go to and check it out.

How to get the latest alert information

As well as in the online data tool, the Alfalfa Harvest Alert Project information will be shared similarly from past years. KASM 1150 AM, KTLF 960 AM, and WVAL 800 AM are sponsoring radio reports in the Stearns, Benton, Morrison, and Sherburne County area. KRWC 1360 AM will be sponsoring reports for Wright, Meeker, and McLeod counties. Check your local paper for news releases as well.

Internet users can visit Minnesota Crop News for posted hay information. The results can also be directly emailed to you by going to and subscribing to the Hay Auction and Scissor Cut/Alfalfa Harvest Alert Information email list. We appreciate the hard work by all the farm and agribusiness cooperators and sponsors for this project and look forward to a successful sampling season!

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