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Grazing Alfalfa

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Jeanne - Simme Valley

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I sold 6 replacement heifers to an upcoming new beef farm, neighbor. Young couple with a little boy. They just bought a small farm (just signed papers this week). So, in the meantime, they hired a fencer to fence in about 5 acres for this winter. Made plans for us to drop them off this past Saturday. My first thought was - wow - look at the super green field. Well, as I got closer, discovered it's Alfalfa that has been cut twice for hay and had about 6-8" of new growth. Scared me to death. Turns out they had about 2 acres of the Alfalfa field, and about 3 acres of grass pasture. I went home & got Polywire & fenced them out of the Alfalfa.
We had 21F, 23F & 26F at night 2 weeks ago. And the morning we delivered them, we had 23F that night (it was 8:30am). So, it has been exposed to freeze - but it is not burnt at all. It is lush green growing Alfalfa. There is some grass. If I had to put a number, I would guess 70% A & 30% grass.
And, no - this is definitely NOT grazing Alfalfa. It was planted and hayed by a dairyman.
What would you do with it? I suggested 2-4D and no-till some more grass into it. Would you let them graze small strips ?
I will admit, I am scared to death of Alf. I have had very bad experience with it.
 

Silver

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Our cattle often come into the regrowth hay fields before hard frost. 70% alfalfa does seem like a lot though. If it were me I might put out a dry bale for them and just keep an eye on them. And make sure they are full when they get turned in.
 

Stocker Steve

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Legume leaves burst after the first good frost. Burst leaves are dangerous.
Alfalfa leaves fall off a month or so after killing frost.
So I would graze it two weeks after the first good frost with cattle that are not real hungry.
 

Stocker Steve

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No chronic bloaters in my herd, but have had one in the freezer occasionally. My issue is they seem to have an off taste. What is your experience?
 
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Jeanne - Simme Valley

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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My nephew asked me if Bi-Carb would help. Can't find any bloat blocks around here. I put Bi-Carb in one of our mineral compartments during early spring growth while breeding. seems to help with our BUN (blood urea nitr).
He was planning on moving polywire a little at a time. Scares me! I will suggest the bi-carb - it's a cheap insurance policy.
Thanks for the comments.
 

Silver

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My nephew asked me if Bi-Carb would help. Can't find any bloat blocks around here. I put Bi-Carb in one of our mineral compartments during early spring growth while breeding. seems to help with our BUN (blood urea nitr).
He was planning on moving polywire a little at a time. Scares me! I will suggest the bi-carb - it's a cheap insurance policy.
Thanks for the comments.
Could you not just add an ionophore to your mineral?
 

Buck Randall

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Ionophores and bicarbonate help with gas bloat that you typically see with grain, but not the frothy bloat caused by legumes like alfalfa.

I do think the fear of alfalfa grazing is a little overblown. If you put them on a field when they're hungry and they gorge themselves, you could run into trouble. I grew up on a farm where the cows get put out on the fields every fall, and we never had a problem. We always locked the cows in a yard without feed for a few hours, gave them a bale of stemmy hay that they'd eat because they were hungry, and turn them out on the field immediately after they filled up on hay.
 

Silver

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Ionophores and bicarbonate help with gas bloat that you typically see with grain, but not the frothy bloat caused by legumes like alfalfa.

I do think the fear of alfalfa grazing is a little overblown. If you put them on a field when they're hungry and they gorge themselves, you could run into trouble. I grew up on a farm where the cows get put out on the fields every fall, and we never had a problem. We always locked the cows in a yard without feed for a few hours, gave them a bale of stemmy hay that they'd eat because they were hungry, and turn them out on the field immediately after they filled up on hay.
That’s interesting that you say Rumensin doesn’t help, there are a lot of articles that claim it does help, like this one: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/beef/news/vbn0516a1.htm
I have never tried it because like you it’s never been much of a concern if approached with a bit of basic precaution like you describe.
 

Buck Randall

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WFfarm

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We have a couple small hayfields (1.5-2 acres) near our barn than have alfalfa and clover that aren't worth trying to cut the third cutting off. It maybe has 1/2 legumes, 1/2 grass. We will feed dry grassy hay to the cows until their bellies are about 2/3 full. Our neighbor calls it "dry bellying them"?. Then we let them in to graze the alfalfa/clover for an hour or so mid day when it's good and dry, then kick them back out. Maybe every other day. Have never had issues with bloat. I would not let them have free access to it if there is more alfalfa than grass, especially with rain or dew on it.
 
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Jeanne - Simme Valley

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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Great article. I forwarded it to my new buyers.
I have done my part. I warned them it was dangerous. I provided my fencing to keep them out. He has done some research, so now it is up to them.
Thanks for all the input.
 

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