Hay production of Alfalfa

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), a perennial legume is used primarily as hay, silage and pasture for animal fodder and  as a source of protein.

Hay production of Alfalfa

Alfalfa is sown, managed and harvested for hay production using a variety of cultural practices that greatly influence the energetics of its production. It is established preferably in the autumn or in the spring.

Hay production and high feed-protien-content feed has several advantages, like diversification in crops cultivated at farm, reduction of off-form feed concentrates transported over long distances and a reduction in runoff during the winter season if grown crops are perennial.

Among all the perennials alfalfa is grown for high protein content feed, alfalfa is important in Italian context. Till now only few studies have checked the environmental performance of alfalfa production.

Inspite of its importance in on-farm production of protein-rich feed, until now only a few and partial studies have been carried out with the purpose of assessing the environmental performance of alfalfa hay production.

The environmental impact of alfalfa hay production considering primary data collected from the place where alfalfa hay is produced according the guidelines for Integrated Agriculture (Regione Lombardia, 2018). The production of alfalfa hay presents some critical aspects. the weather conditions during harvesting can deeply affect the quality of the produced hay (Iannucci et al., 2002).

The timing of harvest and the harvest process are critical to obtaining hay of desired quality After cutting and conditioning, The first stage of drying is fast and it involves intense loss of water. At this stage, the stomata remain open and there is a high vapor pressure deficit between forage and air, while water loss may reach 1 g/g DM/hour.

In the second phase of drying, after stomata closing, water loss occurs throughout cuticle evaporation. The structure of the leaves, plant cuticle characteristics and structure affect the duration of such drying phase. At the end of drying phase, i.e., the third phase, due to plasmolysis, the cell membrane loses its selective permeability consequently, a fast loss of water occurs.

This phase begins when the plant moisture reaches nearly 45%. The third phase is less influenced by the management and more sensitive to climatic conditions than the previous phases, especially in relation to relative humidity (Moser, 1995). Nascimento et al. (2000) found that there was a decrease on hays quality when they remained under the sun, mainly in terms of crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, and acid detergent fiber.

Apart from climatic factors and management, several factors which are intrinsic to a forage plant such as cuticle thickness, diameter and length of stem, as well as leaf/stem ratio, among others, interfere on the drying process. The maximum yield of alfalfa is achieved at the stage of full flowering, whereas quality is the highest prior to flowering.

Thus, a trade-off between quality and quantity is at the basis of alfalfa hay production (Undersander et al., 1994) To improve the quality of hay and, in particular, to reduce product and quality losses during harvesting, over the years more adept machines have been developed.

In particular, the use of a mower-conditioner with full-width conditioning rollers that crush alfalfa stems speeds up the drying process (Summers, 1998)

  • Crop husbandry

A good quality seed should be selected and sown by the broadcast method. Crop at three different growth stages will be cut and hay will be made. It should be cultivated by broadcast method using seed ratio of 30 kg per hectare in April. All other agronomic practices should be followed as in the other crops.

Observation recorded for checking the quality of Hay

  • Agronomic Parameters
  1. Fresh weight (m -2 )
  2. Total forage yield (kg ha -1 )
  3. Dry weight (m -2 )
  4. Total hay yield (kg ha -1 )
  5. Leaf area index
  6. Moisture loss (%)
  • Quality Parameters
  1. Crude protein percentage
  2. Crude fiber percentage
  3. Total ash percentage
  • Hay characteristics
  1. High leaf to stem ratio
  2. pH
  3. Dry matter (%)
  4. Crude protein
  5. Acid detergent fiber
  6. Neutral detergent fiber
  7. Hemicellulose
  8. Cellulose
  • Stake holders

 ‘Fodder Production and Trading Unit’ have been formulated on the basis of discussions with industry stakeholders and experts. The projections cover the cost of land, machinery and equipment including office equipment, fixtures, etc.

Assumptions regarding machinery have been provided, however, specific assumptions relating to individual cost components are given as under

Financial and key assumptions for the stake holders

  • land and building
  • overall factory and renovation
  • office furniture and fixtures
  • Depreciation treatments
  • Utilities
  • Working capital requirements
  • Vehicle for support and maintenance services
  • Selling and distribution expenses
  • Revenue projections
  • Taxation
  • Cost of capitals

Authors: Ali Hassan, Ali Jawad Hussain, Hassan Nisar and Mobeen Ahmed

Agro-climatology lab, University of Agriculture Faisalabad