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Critical Control Points (CCP) of Alfalfa Haylage

Callie Courtney, Forage Specialist, All American Co-op
cjcourtney@allamericancoop.com (563) 880-3080

CCP 1 Decision Making

  • Identify who is the decision maker to start and stop the harvest and ensiling process.
  • Who will make decisions regarding whether certain loads of forage are included in the bunker/pile or separated for feeding Immediately.
  • BOTTOM LINE – Identify the decision makers and empower them to make the “right” decision in a timely manner.

CCP 2 Maturity

  • Maturity reflects the antagonism between quantity (yield) and quality (digestibility) such that one additional day equals 100lbs of yield/acre and -2 to -5 RFV.
  • Plan with a forage team and nutritionist on cutting target. Use scissor clips and PEAQ stick to estimate cutting date.
  • BOTTOM LINE – Optimize yield quantity and quality with agronomic considerations for the stand.

CCP 3 Moisture

  • The target for wilted alfalfa moisture is 60% (40% DM), with a narrow ideal range of 58-62% (32-42% DM).
  • Alfalfa dries fastest in wide shallow swaths exposed to direct sunlight when humidity is below average, wind speed is above average, and soil moisture is below average.
  • If a load or two comes in too wet above 65% moisture or higher DO NOT ensile, separate for immediate feeding after consulting with your nutritionist!
  • BOTTOM LINE – Hitting target moisture is critical for significantly reducing the risk of clostridic (butyric acid) fermentation, achieving pile density, excluding oxygen during pack, and retaining leaves during harvest.

CCP 4 Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC or Sugars)

  • WSC feed the epiphytic and inoculant bacteria to grow and produce lactic acid.
  • Rain and heavy dew are “re-wetting” events that can reduce WSC of alfalfa making the crop much more difficult to ferment.
  • BOTTOM LINE – Maximize WSC by reducing the risk/effects of re- wetting events

CCP 5 Ash

  • Plant mineral and contaminating soil ash (dirt) contribute indigestible nutrients as well as enhance the already high buffering capacity of alfalfa which inhibits good fermentation.
  • Contamination soil ash is the most likely source of soil- borne clostridia spores and other endobacteria that can lead to undesirable fermentation, especially clostridia fermentation and high butyric acid levels.
  • Lower cutting heights increased yield, reduces quality, and increases ash content of alfalfa. Cutting heights of 3-4 inches are ideal in most situations.
  • Adjust equipment to minimize soil disturbance and ash accumulation….. we are not landscaping.
  • BOTTOM LINE – Minimize contaminating ash as it serves as a non- nutritive buffer and source of clostridia spores and Enterobacter.

The big take away from all this is:

  • Cut alfalfa 3-4 inches high
  • Keep moisture 58%-62%.
  • Keep Ash content below 10%.
  • Use PEAQ stick reading to determine cutting timeline.
  • Use inoculant for faster Ph drop and better fermentation.
  • Pack forage in a 3-4-inch layer and allow enough time for pack tractor between loads.

Remember the team at All American Co-op can help you with any forage question you have as well as the following services

  • PEAQ Stick Readings
  • Density Readings
  • Inoculants
  • Scissors cuttings

Inoculants Available for Haylage

Silo Solve MC

  •  Ideal for a range of crops especially at higher moisture prone to clostridic fermentation
  • Fast starter, strong finisher, patented clostridia control
  • Fast and Efficient fermentation, improve DM retention

Silo Solve FC 

  • Ideal for all crops especially for those that will be fed soon after harvest
  • Fast starter, fast finisher, oxygen scavenging LAB, L. buchneri strain
  • Fast and efficient fermentation, improved dry matter retention, early feed out, Aerobic stability, superior yeast and mild inhibition.

Biomax – Pro

  • Ideal for all crops across the broad range of moistures stored in a variety of structures.
  • Fast starter, strong finisher, proven inhibition of 5 yeasts and 2 molds
  •  Very fast and efficient fermentation, excellent dry matter retention
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