Alberta Alfalfa Hay
Medicago sativa is the Latin name for “the Queen of Forages”, alfalfa, the most popular and important forage legume grown in Canada. (Agriculture Canada, 1987) It owes its monarchic nickname to its many virtues and merits. Alberta Alfalfa Hay is considered to be one of the most palatable and nutritious of hays. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, alfalfa hay is one of the chief components of dairy cattle feed, as well as serving as an important dietary ration for milking goats, beef cattle, sheep and horses. Aside from the nutritional advantages that it provides for ruminants and a variety of equine species, alfalfa is also an indirect source for honey as bees gather a substantial amount of nectar from alfalfa flowers. (Alfalfa) This high-yielding cultivar also has a great ability to improve soil quality and provide weed control for ensuing crops.
The plant itself is a bushy perennial legume which grows to a height of 60-100 cm. Its leaves consist of 3 leaflets which can range in shape from almost round to lanceolate. The stems are slender and may be either hollow or solid. Flowers grow in clusters of 10-20 and the florets are usually blue or purple, white or yellow, occasionally bronze and green and may be variegated with shades of blue and green. (Goplen, 1987) Seed pods are slightly downy and vary from kidney or sickle shaped to single, double or triple-coiled in appearance; however “the sickle pod has been almost eliminated by selection because it contains few seeds and shatters easily”. (Goplen et al., 1987, p.6)
The roots of the alfalfa plant are of four types: tap, branch, rhizomatious and creeping. The majority of roots probably penetrate most soils to a depth of about 2 m. (Fulkerson) Taproots typically penetrate “from 7 to 9 m, but roots have been observed 39 m deep in a mine beneath an alfalfa field”. (Sheaffer & Evers, 2007, p. 182) “Depending on the length of the growing season and maturity at harvest, alfalfa will have from 2 to 10 regrowth cycles”. (Sheaffer & Evers, 2007, p.182)
One of the distinctive characteristics of alfalfa is its ability to tap into the nitrogen supply in the air. It does this through an especially unique symbiotic relationship with a particular type of soil bacteria. These bacteria produce nodules on the root that convert nitrogen in the air into a form that is readily used by the plant- a process called “nitrogen fixation”. Soil acidity directly affects the growth and survival of these bacteria and can be a significant impediment to high alfalfa yields. Saline soil conditions also deter productivity because salinity adversely affects seed germination and also prevents roots from taking in water and essential nutrients.
At Barr-Ag, we take up to three cuts of the early maturing varieties of Alberta Alfalfa Hay from our irrigated farms. This alfalfa is sought after for its higher protein content. The later maturing variety is grown on our dryland properties and we harvest up to two cuts. All of our alfalfa hay is non-GMO.(See to the attached article: USDA to OK Genetically Modified Alfalfa )
Barr-Ag’s head office is located at 5837 Imperial Drive, Olds, Alberta, Canada, T4H 1G6. Please visit our website or call or write if you have any questions about our timothy hay, non-GMO alfalfa hay or any of our other products. We can be reached by telephone at: 403 507 8660 or by email at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fulkerson, R.S., Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Publication 59
Goplen, B.P, Baenziger, H., Bailey, L.D., Gross, A.T.H., Hanna, M.R., Michaud, R., Richards, K.W., Waddington, J., (1987) Agriculture Canada: Growing and Managing Alfalfa in Canada, Publication 1705/E
McKenzie, Ross H., (2005) Agri-Facts: Soil and Nutrient Management of Alfalfa
Sheaffer, Craig C., Evers, Gerald W., (2007) Forages: The Science of Grassland Agriculture