|Alfalfa fields are about ready for the first cutting of the season.|
|Make adjustments to the harvester during the first cutting.|
- Make sure the mower/conditioner is properly adjusted. The first-cut alfalfa is usually heavier and thicker than the later season crop. As a result, cutting requires more pressure from mowers. However, too much roller pressure could create excess leaf loss. For roller conditioners, check the roller clearance and pressure to ensure they are where they need to be. Proper speed and clearance are important for impeller conditioners.
Wet alfalfa can be spread out to dry in the sun.
- Make the windrow wider. If drying is a challenge, lay the alfalfa in a wide swatch to increase exposure to the wind and sun.
- Cutting higher will help air move around the windrow, allowing for quicker drying.
- Time your cutting. In drier areas, cutting later in the day is better. In more humid regions, cutting in the morning after the dew is off is better.
- Rake only if necessary. Growers may have to rake if the cut alfalfa gets rained on. If that’s the case, raking should be done when the moisture content is 30 to 40 percent. This will balance leaf loss with good drying. Consider using a chemical aid to prevent moisture damage.
Let’s hope nature cooperates and lets alfalfa growers start working their fields soon.