As Soiling Food





For being fed as soiling food, alfalfa has the very

highest adaptation, owing, 1. To the long period covered by the growth.

2. To the rapidity of the growth resulting in large relative production.

3. To the palatability of the green food produced. 4. To the entire

safety to the animals fed. And 5. To its high feeding value. In

Louisiana, for instance, alfalfa may be made to furnish soiling food for

nine months in the year. In the North, of course, the duration of

production is much less, but it is seldom less than five months. The

growth is so rapid that cuttings for soiling food may usually be made at

intervals of four to six weeks, according to season and climate; hence,

the cuttings for soiling food will run all the way from two to eight or

nine each season. It is so palatable that horses, mules, cattle, sheep

and swine relish it highly. When wilted a little before being fed, the

danger of producing bloat is eliminated. Its feeding value is nearly

the same as that of the medium red clover, thus making it in itself what

may be termed a balanced or perfect food for horses, mules, cattle and

sheep until development is completed and subsequently when they are at

rest; that is, when they are not producing, as in the form of labor or

milk.



The highest use, probably, from feeding alfalfa when green will arise

from feeding it to milch cows. Its high protein content in combination

with its succulence pre-eminently adapts it to such a use. Wherever

alfalfa can be grown and will produce even two cuttings a year, it will

serve a good purpose in producing milk. Every dairyman dependent more or

less on soiling food will find it to his advantage to grow alfalfa where

it may be grown in good form. When fed to milch cows, some meal added,

carbonaceous in character, as corn or non-saccharine sorghum seed, may

prove a paying investment, and it may also be advisable to alternate the

green alfalfa, morning or evening, with such other green crops as oats

and peas, millet, rape, corn or sorghum when in season, to provide

variety. But even though alfalfa alone should be thus made to supplement

the pastures, the outcome should be at least fairly satisfactory. When

fed to horses that are working, some care must be exercised in feeding

it, lest too lax a condition of the bowels should be induced, and a

grain factor should be fed at the same time. It has frequently been

given to sheep that were being fitted for show purposes, but may also be

fed green to the entire flock, with a view to supplement the pastures.

It has special adaptation for promoting large growth in lambs, and,

indeed, in any kind of young stock to which it may be fed. When fed to

swine, a small grain supplement properly chosen and fed will insure more

satisfactory growth. It is thought that more satisfactory results will

be obtained from allowing the alfalfa to get fairly well on toward the

blossoming stage before beginning to feed, and to continue to feed until

in full bloom. This in practice may not always be possible, but usually

an approximation to it may be reached, especially when the production of

the alfalfa will more than supply the needs in soiling food. The ideal

plan is to commence cutting the alfalfa as soon as a good growth is

made, cutting enough daily or every other day to supply the needs of the

animals. If the growth becomes too much advanced before the field is

gone over thus, the balance should be made into hay, and the cutting

should begin again where it began previously.



There is no question but that considerably more food can be obtained

from a given area when green alfalfa is fed in the soiling form, instead

of being grazed. The difference in such production would not be easy to

determine, but of the fact stated there cannot be any doubt. Ordinarily,

each cutting of green alfalfa for soiling should not produce less than 4

tons; hence, where 8 cuttings can be secured, not fewer than 32 tons of

soiling food could be obtained per season. But whether the increase from

soiling alfalfa, as compared with pasturing the same, would repay the

cost of the extra labor, will depend upon conditions that vary with time

and place. Alfalfa fields thus managed or cut for hay will also produce

for a longer period than when the fields are grazed.



Continuity in the production of soiling food may not be possible some

seasons in the absence of irrigation; hence, under such conditions

provision should always be made for a supply of such other soiling foods

as may be needed, and of a character that will make it practical to turn

them into dry fodder when not wanted as soiling food. But where

irrigating waters are unfailing, it is quite possible to furnish soiling

food from alfalfa soils through practically all the growing season.

Dairymen thus located are in a dairyman's paradise.



Alfalfa, like clover, may be made into silage. In dry climates this

would seem to be unnecessary, but in rainy climates it may be wise in

some instances to make alfalfa ensilage, the better to insure the curing

of the crop. What has been said with reference to clover ensilage will

apply almost equally to alfalfa. (See page 103.) It would be more

desirable, usually, to make the first cutting from alfalfa into ensilage

than later cuttings, because of the showery character of the weather at

that season, but the strong objection stands in the way of doing so,

that no carbonaceous food, as corn, sorghum or soy beans, is ready for

going into the silo then as they are later, with a view of aiding in the

better preservation of the ensilage and of making a better balanced

ration. Good alfalfa silage is more easily made when the alfalfa has

been run through a cutting-box than when in the uncut forms.





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