Below is the PDF of the current Alfalfa Quality Monitoring Worksheet. Feel free to download and print the handout. Continue reading below for directions on interpreting the PEAQ results.
Interpreting Alfalfa PEAQ* Results
University of Wisconsin-Extension agronomy specialists and dairy scientists recommend the following four steps when using scissors clip data to plan harvest schedules:
1. Set harvesting goals. Match forage quality to animal needs. We recommend that alfalfa/grass forage quality be 150 RFV for milking dairy herds and 120 to 130 for heifers, stocker cattle, and lactating beef cattle (red clover should be about 10 points higher in RFV).
2. Make adjustments for field losses. Under the best of conditions, 15% (points) of the dry matter will be lost during harvesting. Therefore it is necessary to cut a field at 165 to 170 RFV to end up with harvested forage of 150 RFV.
3. Make adjustment for total harvesting time. We have to begin even earlier to average 150 for all fields. For planning purposes we can use the average first cutting forage quality rate of change of 3 to 4 RFV per day. Thus, if it takes two weeks to harvest first cutting and we want to average 150 RFV, we must begin harvesting one week before RFV 170 (from #2). Seven days times 3 or 4 RFV change per day equals 21 to 28 points RFV. Harvesting for this farm should begin when the scissors clip results indicate standing forage quality is 191 to 198 (170 plus 21 or 28).
4. Make adjustments for local field conditions. The scissors clip results are generally for alfalfa forage quality. This means that grassy fields will reach the stated forage quality earlier than pure alfalfa. Stands on lighter soils will tend to begin growing earlier and mature faster unless conditions are droughty. South slopes will also mature earlier than north slopes. Further, if you have planted some of the newer, high quality varieties, these should reach the desired forage quality two to three days later than standard varieties.
This information is provided by Tim Jergenson, Agricultural Agent, and Barron County UW-Extension, phone number 715-537-6250 with cooperation of selected host farms and Sarah McHenry, Kirsten Huth, and Steve Fronk.
* The “Predictive Equations for Alfalfa Quality” (PEAQ) is a method used to predict the forage quality of standing alfalfa. This can help determine that critically important day when alfalfa growers should begin cutting first cut alfalfa hay and haylage.