I grew up on a farm the place alfalfa was all the time a part of the crop rotation. A lot of the alfalfa went to native dairies, however even inferior alfalfa discovered a house at an area feed yard. Identical to the corn and beans harvested every fall, alfalfa was marketed accordingly and maintained an necessary a part of the farm’s monetary equation.
After I was rising up, I didn’t notice the worth of alfalfa as a complement for beef cows. An excessive amount of analysis has confirmed alfalfa to work for cattle producers who’re keen to consider supplementation a unique approach. Some is perhaps considering, “That’s ridiculous, I can’t weigh alfalfa like a bucket of cubes … and what in regards to the waste?”
These are legitimate issues but in addition show you’re heading in the right direction. Feeding accuracy is vital when utilizing alfalfa as a complement. Not like typical protein dietary supplements, alfalfa have to be fed every day or an excessive amount of shall be wasted. Each day fed alfalfa will lead to 10-15% loss, which has similarities to waste with cubed or textured feed dietary supplements.
As a legume, alfalfa stands out as a high-quality supply of protein, however different advantages may be neglected. This hay supply additionally may be excessive in power, however harvest and baling can influence high quality. The premium dietary worth of alfalfa is within the leaves, making it crucial to bale on the right moisture.
One neglected reality of newly harvested alfalfa is its wealthy vitamin A content material. Some might recall the elevation of vitamin A costs within the final couple years. Feeding new-crop leafy alfalfa can put a dent within the quantity of vitamin A mandatory for the cow herd. Consider, vitamin A will degrade over time, so new-crop alfalfa must be used first if this can be a objective. Alfalfa is also wealthy in different nutritional vitamins and minerals, however producers ought to get a vitamin and mineral evaluation to verify these ranges.
Analysis out of Kansas State College demonstrates the effectiveness of alfalfa as a complement to cows on native vary. In a single research, cows had been supplemented with 19.4% protein alfalfa at three inclusion ranges in line with a proportion of body weight: 0.48%, 0.72%, and 0.96%. Researchers discovered that conception charge was unaffected by degree of supplementation, however physique situation did enhance linearly with elevated degree of complement. Supplemental alfalfa additionally decreased calving interval, proving the robust correlation of cow physique situation and copy. Moreover, weaning weights had been biggest in calves whose dams obtained the best degree of alfalfa. Total, researchers urged that the supplemental degree of 0.72% of body weight could be enough for cows in good situation. However, cows needing to get well physique situation would profit from the best degree of supplemental alfalfa on this research (0.96%).
One undeniable fact that shouldn’t be misplaced on producers is the impact of rumen fill when alfalfa is supplemented.
On this research, Ok-State researchers found decreased grazing by cows in center to late phases of gestation. It was documented that because the calf fetus grows all through gestation, there may be much less room within the rumen, making cumbersome dietary supplements (i.e. alfalfa) much less fascinating in conditions the place grazing is the objective. Moreover, substitution might happen as cows choose alfalfa fairly than grazing lower-quality forages. For that reason, producers might think about alfalfa as a complement for cows in early phases of gestation and save the standard less-bulky dietary supplements nearer to calving.
For extra details about utilizing alfalfa in your beef operation, contact your native county OSU Extension workplace.
Zook is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest space livestock specialist.