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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Yield and Regrowth Characteristics of Alfalfa Grazed with Sheep. I. Spring Grazing1


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 78 No. 6, p. 974-979
    Received: Feb 27, 1985

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  1. V. G. Allen,
  2. D. D. Wolf,
  3. J. P. Fontenot,
  4. J. Cardina and
  5. D. R. Notter2



Grazing alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in early spring would provide high quality pasture prior to using the forage for subsequent hay production. ‘Arc’ alfalfa grown on Groseclose silt loam (clayey, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludult) at Blacksburg, VA, was grazed by sheep beginning 6 Apr. 1981 and 1982 for four grazing durations (GD) of 0,2,4, and 6 weeks. Two experiments were conducted which differed in level of available forage (AF); high (to maintain about 0.9 Mg ha−1 and low (to maintain less than 0.4 Mg ha−1). The GD's were replicated four times within each AF as two experiments on adjacent sites. Non-grazed alfalfa was harvested as hay at late bud stage. Regrowth on all treatments was harvested at 1/10 bloom during the remainder of the season. Increasing GD at either AF had no adverse effects on alfalfa stands in 1981. In 1982, grazing for 6 weeks at either AF reduced plant regrowth compared to non-grazed alfalfa. Respective yields of two hay harvests in 1983 were 5.5,5.3,4.6, and 5.9 Mg ha−1 for 0-, 2-, 4-, and 6-week GD treatments at high AF, and 5.8,6.2, 5.5, and 5.1 Mg ha−1 at low AF. Results indicate that alfalfa in similar soil-climatic regions can be grazed beginning in early spring for 4, and possibly 6, weeks for two consecutive years with minimal influence on stand longevity and productivity, particularly if AF is maintained at about 0.9 Mg ha−1.

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