Alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant and it an important forage crop used for grazing, hay, and silage for livestock.
What is forage?
Forage is a plant material, like alfalfa, eaten by grazing livestock.
How many acres of alfalfa are grown in California?
There are approximately 500,000 acres of alfalfa.
Where is alfalfa grown in California?
Alfalfa is grown as far north as Shasta and as far south as Imperial. Imperial grows the most alfalfa acreage in the state with 150,562 acres.
When is alfalfa planted?
Alfalfa is usually planted between late fall and early spring and can grow for an upwards of 4-8 years.
When is alfalfa harvested?
Alfalfa can be harvested multiple times throughout the year but is most frequently cut in the summer when there is more growth due to warmer temperatures. Alfalfa can still be cut through the fall and spring, though growing slows due to cooler temperatures.
How much time is between each cutting of alfalfa?
After the first cutting of alfalfa, farmers typically wait about a month between cuttings. However, different factors can influence the time between cuttings like weather, pets, alfalfa quality, and more.
Is alfalfa a drought tolerant crop?
Yes. Alfalfa has several biological features that allow it to do well in California’s drought prone state. One of those features is that their roots can penetrate the soil to 3-5 feet and can even extend downwards of 8-15 feet in some soils, allowing it to reach residual moisture.
How much does alfalfa contribute to California's economy?
Alfalfa contributed $868.4 million to California’s economy in 2018, making it the state’s 11th most valuable crop.
Why is alfalfa such a valuable crop to California?
Alfalfa is an extremely important feed source for California’s dairy industry as its an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals, and energy for dairy cows. California is a huge dairy producing state and in 2018, the dairy industry was the state’s number one commodity generating $6.3 billion.
Which part of the alfalfa plant provides the most nutritional value?
The leaves of the alfalfa plant provide the most nutrition. Alfalfa is a rich source of vitamin and minerals, contains 16-22% crude protein, and 20-28% fiber.
Why isn't alfalfa baled immediately after being cut?
When alfalfa is harvested, it is cut into "windrows." In its windrows, the alfalfa lays out until it is had dried between 13-16% moisture. If alfalfa is baled while it has a higher moisture content, then the alfalfa is subject to becoming a fire hazard, but if the alfalfa is baled at a lower moisture content, it may become too dry and loose leaves.
How much does a bale of alfalfa weigh?
A square bale can weight between 50-100 pounds and a round bale can weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds, or one ton.