Horses and Cows Prefer Weed-Free Alfalfa

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Alfalfa is the perfect food for horses and cows. High in protein, minerals and nutrients, alfalfa is essential for a balanced diet. When alfalfa is harvested mechanically, any weeds in the field are also harvested and contaminate the alfalfa bales, which lowers the value of the alfalfa bale for animal feed. As a result, alfalfa growers, particularly in California, the number one alfalfa state, use herbicides to produce high-quality weed-free alfalfa bales.

“The selling price for clean high quality alfalfa remains as much an incentive today as ever. It is estimated that greater than 75% of acreage is treated for weeds on an annual basis. The market financially rewards weed free high quality forage with higher prices. In 2011, the price for high test >56 TDN weed free hay topped $280 per ton to the grower, as compared to lower quality non test hay with few weeds approximately $160 per ton. Extremely weedy or rain damage hay was priced even lower. Weed free fields remain an economic incentive for best prices and longer lasting stands. When weeds take over, it weakens alfalfa plants, increases incidence of diseases, insects, and lowers hay quality and a significant loss of income. Maintaining good weed control practices is necessary to sustain an economically viable and healthy producing crop of alfalfa for many years.”

Author: Canevari, M.
Affiliation: UCCE Advisor.
Title: Advances in weed management, is it getting better or worse?
Source: 2011 41st California Alfalfa Symposium. Proceedings available at: http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/+symposium/proceedings/2011/11-102.pdf

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