Alfalfa and clover management
I want to elaborate some on palatability and nutrition of alfalfa and clovers.
Alfalfa matures in 28-35 days. Clovers 30-40 days depending on weather conditions. Alfalfa is graded on a scale called relative feed value (rfv). Prime alfalfa hay is in the 175-200 rfv range. Preferred quality to be fed to dairy cattle and deer would be in the 130-175 rfv range. Rfv's over that tend to be really great on protein and mineral contend but due to their low fiber levels are digested too rapidly and as a result are flushed through the system too fast.
At the laste vegetative stage alfalfa will be in the 175 rfv range. We will see a reduction in rfv levels of 1-5 points per day depending on weather, time of year and cutting/crop. For example first crop matures a little slower compared to 3rd crop. First crop because of weather tends to be more fibrous and less palatable to deer once it matures.
These conditions also affect hay palatability. Soil pH, Soil sulfur levels, soil phosphorous and potassium levels, Micro nutrient levels especially boron. Insect and plant disease issues. There are many new alfalfas with resistence to plant diseases. Cheap alfalfa seed will be less palatable because of the disease package and plant sugar and lignin levels. Lignin is undigestible fiber that helps all forage stand but we also dont want these levels to be to high as the forage wont be digested very well and it will pass through the animal and not give them nutrition benefits.
Crop farmers and managed intensive graziers will cut their hay every 28-35 days and food plotters should do this as well. Clip your forages once you see them blooming. Once you get beyond to full bloom (blossoming) the plants convert to reproduction and start to produce a seed head. The plant uses it's energy and reserves for that cause and as an end result protein level plunge rapidly, energy levels drop, mineral levels drop and palatability suffers.
I welcome any questions and will expand on this as it's a topic i would talk all day on. My background is managed intensive grazing and ive been a part of research on it. In the 2017 G.R.O education plot we will be sampling 30 different forages every 28 days and posting the lbs of growth per acre as well as the nutrition breakdown on those forages. We will split each block with one half as a control with standard fertilizations and the other block using soil conditioners and foliar plnt foods to demonstrate the nutritional and yield differences.
Hope this gives you all food for thought.