As the year comes to a close, Elwoh Solutions is working hard to prepare a new farm for high-quality alfalfa hay production. The hay will be ready to harvest during the 2019 season, which will hopefully serve as the beginning of a hay enterprise.
Through many weeks of research and discussions with forage specialists and our local extension agent at the University of Kentucky, it has been decided to move forward with the preparatory steps to establish alfalfa, with the end goal of producing small square bales of alfalfa hay for the equestrian and dairy cattle markets.
Why Alfalfa Hay?
The choice to grow alfalfa hay comes from its position as being one of the highest in nutrients among other types of hay. It should produce a very high RFV/RFQ, and is highly sought after by dairy cattlemen and horse owners alike.
The process to maintain alfalfa is likely considered more intensive than other crops, however with multiple harvests per year, there are also more opportunities to learn from and adjust those management practices to fine-tune what is needed to bridge between what is economical, efficient, and producing the highest quality hay.
Learn more about the alfalfa hay operation at Elwoh Solutions on our main website.
Following a review of the variety trials and reports from the University of Kentucky on the performance of certain varieties of alfalfa, and discussions with multiple seed providers it was decided to use a newer variety marketed by America’s Alfalfa as 480 HVXRR, which boasts both Roundup Ready and HarvXtra traits.
This variety should provide excellent fall dormancy & winterhardiness in our area, while also providing a wider window for harvest, and maintain low lignin characteristics. It will also offer great disease & pest resistance, while also providing the ability to control unwanted grass and weeds in the field throughout the production cycle.
Read more about the HarvXtra trait by Forage Genetics.
Alfalfa Hay Farm Preparation
This particular alfalfa hay crop will commence on a newly acquired property which had previously been used for cattle grazing many years ago, and most recently grass hay production. The property does, however, have a fair amount of ideal preparation needs, such as moderate excavation and field access activity before tillage and seeding can begin, which means a substantial time crunch is realized to meet our target fall seeding date.
There is quite a bit of wooded area within and surrounding the proposed tillable zones that need to be either completely cleared for field access, or cleaned to remove low hanging branches and smaller trees that obstruct the preferred field boundaries.
The desired outcome of the excavation is to have a nearly unobstructed field border, with clear and smooth transitions to the others fields on the parcel of land.
Soil Sampling & Fertility
Producing high-quality alfalfa hay requires near perfect soil chemistry and nutrient availability at the start of seeding, and management throughout the lifecycle of the crop. Our soil testing rendered somewhat surprising results.
Under ideal circumstances, the soil testing and incorporation of lime to adjust the soil pH would have occurred many months ago, but that isn’t the case with this crop — so perhaps additional attention will be needed during establishment.
Following direction from our local ag extension agent, we will be incorporating the following before seeding later this fall.
Lime @ 3 tons per acre DAP 18-46-0 @ 304 lbs per acre Potash 0-0-60 @ 483 lbs per acre Boron @ 2 lbs per acre
More Alfalfa Hay Discussion
As the entire engagement progresses and moves forward, there will be more blog posts about the experience and outcome of the alfalfa hay, as well as commercial availability and quality testing results.
Another objective of documenting the process with these posts will be to foster a constructive discussion with other producers and agronomists to gather feedback on the methods and their implementations.