By Fernando Diaz
Alfalfa preserved as hay requires about 2-4 days or more of field wilting depending on weather conditions. Faster drying allows for higher quality and reduces the threat posed by rain. Of the initial available protein in the standing crop, 28% can be lost under good conditions and 46% when rained on. Additionally, reducing the length of time the swath stays in the field allows for faster re-growth of alfalfa.
Dry matter and quality losses during harvest and storage of alfalfa hay can be large. Dry matter losses for the full process are typically 15- 25% for hay made under good drying conditions, and 35-100% for rain damaged hay. Mechanical losses account for nearly one third of total dry matter losses. Mowing, raking and baling, shatter leaves, and disassociates some small stem particles. Raking accounts for the largest losses when compared to all field operations.
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