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I18   FODDER AND PASTURE PLANTS.

and hogs eating it with eagerness. Even Red Clover is inferior to it in nutritive value, the protein content being greater in Alfalfa. It can be fed to greatest advantage to dairy cattle but is also important for fattening all kinds of farm animals, especially sheep and hogs.

 

Fodder: Farmers sometimes say that Alfalfa does not make good hay, but such statements are usually the result of cutting at the wrong time. Its value for hay depends upon its nutritive value and its power of producing a number of crops in the season. As with most forage plants, the quality rapidly deteriorates after the plants have begun to blossom. The stems then lose their succulence, be-come hard and woody, and the leaves are apt to fall off. When the plants begin to form their blossoms, new secondary stems are developed from buds at the crown. As it is upon this secondary growth that the second cutting depends, the first cutting must be done before the secondary stems have grown tall enough to be cut off by the mower. For this reason it is advisable to cut a little earlier than the nutritive value and yield of the hay demand. If it is cut at the beginning of the flowering period, the yield of the first crop will be a little lessened, but the second growth will develop more quickly and the return will be greater. Early cutting gives a greater total crop of better hay than late cutting. Where the season is long and the weather favourable, five or six cuttings a year can be secured. In northern countries such as Canada, two or three cuttings a year may be expected. In irrigated districts or in places where hay-making time is dry, it is not difficult to cure Alfalfa into bright green hay of excellent quality. Where rains or heavy dews are frequent after cutting, the hay is apt to turn yellow or brown. Its nutritive value is considerably lessened and its palatability lost. Curing is generally done in the same way as for Red Clover. Alfalfa should, however, be handled more carefully, as the leaves easily fall off and their shattering causes a considerable loss of fodder.

 

Pasture: When Alfalfa is grown for pasture, which is only done to a limited extent in Canada, it is important to get the plants well established before turning the stock into the field. It is never advisable to pasture Alfalfa before the third year. Even in old fields care must be taken to prevent the plants being killed in spots. Alfalfa has a single taproot, the crown of which generally stands a little above ground. Being thus exposed, it might easily be injured by tramping, especially when the ground is soft from heavy rains. As the new stems come from the crown, Alfalfa is liable to be seriously damaged by close pasturing with sheep. It is not advisable to pasture


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