Alfalfa Yield and Quality Estimation Using Environmental Variables, and Improved Forage Quality Tests (FY 2004)
The best forage test is to feed it to an animal, but that is too slow, expensive, and impractical. The forage tests of acid detergent fiber, ADF, and neutral detergent fiber, NDF, do not consistently predict animal intake or performance across cuttings. For example, hot season cuttings usually have finer stems, are greener in color, and conventional tests show similar values of ADF and NDF to cool season cuttings, yet animal intake and digestibility are less for the hot season cuttings. Promising new methods to improve our ability to predict animal performance need to be evaluated. The modern high producing dairy cow requires a certain amount of fiber to stimulate the rumen, but needs as much available energy as possible. Idaho's rapidly expanding dairy industry needs more high quality alfalfa hay. The development of predictive models for
alfalfa yield and quality will provide alfalfa producers with information to schedule harvests which result in providing the quality and quantity of alfalfa desired by the dairy industry. Development of improved forage quality tests will allow livestock producers to improve ration formulation and forage allocation to their livestock. Improved rations will provide more efficient livestock production, fewer animal health problems, and reduced nutrient loads. Livestock producers will have better information to provide producers incentives for the high quality forage desired. Alfalfa producers will also have better yield and quality information to more profitably market their crops.