22 | 03 | 2018


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Because of the problem of bloat, the use of lucerne in the form of hay is a popular practice in South Africa.

Unpredictable thunderstorms may hamper the process, however, especially in summer rainfall areas, as they reduce the quality of the hay.

Short-term weather forecasts should be obtained and, if sunny weather is predicted for the following 4-5 days, the process can begin.

The Process

Lucerne hay is cut with a rotary mower or sickle bar mower, usually at the early flowering stage.

 The cut material is left on the lands for 3-4 hours to wilt, after which it is raked into windrows to dry. This limits the processes of respiration and the growth of fungus.

After 2-4 days the lucerne can be baled, and it must be removed from the lands as soon as possible after this.

By using a crimper, water loss is speeded up, and risks reduced. It also reduces leaf drop.

Water availability and temperature, as well as the dormancy of the cultivar, greatly influence the productivity and survival of lucerne, as does the choice of a cutting schedule suitable for the region.

 The potential number of cuts under irrigation can vary from 2-12 per season, depending on dormancy. Cutting schedules are based on the growth stage, fixed cutting intervals, or development of regrowth on the crown.

These different criteria lead to differences in yield and quality but, when cutting is determined by the growth stage, the plant itself is used as the indicator and in general a more constant yield and quality is obtained within each cultivar and over several seasons and in different localities.

Producers often use a combination of factors in scheduling hay making.

The yield of stems increases linearly between the early vegetative and the late flowering stages, while leaf yields increase until the early flowering period.

The quantity of stems and leaves is equal at early flowering stage, but by late flowering 60% of the total yield consists of stems and only 40% of leaves.


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