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Establishing alfalfa-grass mixtures

Alfalfa fields continue to dominate the forage landscape across Midwestern states. However, mixing an alfalfa variety with grass species to create hay fields is increasingly popular in Eastern U.S. dairy regions. The practice was popularized decades ago by beef producers.

While initial hay fields may have naturally evolved from grasses filling in areas of lost alfalfa plants, today’s production is much more intensively managed.

 

field with a mix of alfalfa and grass
Alfalfa-grass forage mixture.

Keys to successful establishment

Forage production is a three- to six-year commitment, depending on a producer’s decisions, management practices and field rotations to benefit the farm as a whole system. This is unlike annual commodity crops, in which producers evaluate and select genetics and inputs each year.

Because of this expanded commitment, it’s important to recognize, understand and implement key management considerations.

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Doug Holen, former Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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