Nathan Hrnicek – District Manager, Dairyland Seed
Happy Spring to each of you! As planters and seeding of alfalfa fields have begun, I wanted to take this time to thank you for your continued investment into IDP, and your hard work providing delicious and nutritious products! My wife and I had a tremendous time on the industry tour with many of you to Illinois at the end of March. As you will begin assessing your alfalfa, and the timeliness of the harvest, I wanted to give you a protocol for scissors cutting. This is a necessary step to truly identify the quality of your alfalfa, and give you the best idea of when to cut. Please follow these steps this season, and remember to be safe each and every day. Your return home every night is much more important than any seed going in the ground, or cow to be milked. If you have any questions, please give me a call or text (219)863-6828.
There is no doubt that high producing dairy herds today feed large quantities of high quality forage. Since forage quality is so important, the timing of alfalfa harvest is critical. A year’s worth of milk production potential revolves around the decision of when to cut. Knowing the quality of your alfalfa crop before harvest can help ensure your forage quality goals are met. 
There are several methods available for predicting alfalfa quality. The Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality (PEAQ), using growing degree days, and scissors cutting are the most common. Each of these methods can work, but perhaps the most reliable and consistent method is scissors cutting. Scissors cutting takes away the variation in results due to temperature, precipitation, plant height variation, and plant growth stage that other methods may pick up. Scissors cutting is reliable for first crop and all crops during the season, so we recommend testing each crop if possible. 
Materials Needed 
• Device to measure one square foot (ring, square, etc.) 
• Garden shears or sharp scissors 
• Small bucket 
• Sample Bag 
Protocol for good representative measurement of the quality status in an alfalfa field 
1) Walk into field until you are sure you are outside of the headland areas. Randomly toss the measuring square into the alfalfa. 
2) The square will likely be resting on alfalfa plants, so you need to pull all alfalfa stems within the square through the device until it is resting on the ground. 
3) Cut all alfalfa stems within the square. It is critical that you cut at the same height as the machine that will be mowing the field. An error in cutting height of one inch or less can result in inaccurate data. 
4) Cut all alfalfa stems into one inch pieces and place in the bucket. 
5) Move to a different area of the field and repeat steps 1-4. We recommend 1 square foot sample for every 10 acres. (60 acre field would need 6 individual samples taken) 
6) After all individual samples are placed in the bucket, mix the alfalfa together thoroughly and then place a handful in your sample bag. 
7) Promptly send the sample to the forage testing laboratory of your choice. Include your contact information with the sample, and give each sample a field identifier to avoid confusion if multiple samples are submitted. 
8) Once your results are received, a harvesting date can be determined. Keep in mind that alfalfa quality will normally be reduced by 10 to 15% during the harvesting process. This means if your goal is 180 RFQ, you will need to mow the alfalfa at a scissors cut reading of 210 RFQ. 

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