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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