What Livestock Eats Alfalfa?
Updated on October 20, 2022 | By Alex
Alfalfa hay purchases do not have to be as challenging as they may seem. While there are some farmers who may be confused about their livestock and which of them will consume different types of hay, we are here to help readers make sense of it all. Read on to learn more about the different types of livestock and which one’s love alfalfa the most!
Do Wild Animals Eat Alfalfa?
There are some wild animals that eat alfalfa, as it is a very good source of nutrients. Rabbits and hares are known to munch on alfalfa throughout the course of each year. Red-back jackrabbits, white-sided jackrabbits, hispid hares, and the black-tailed jackrabbit all enjoy alfalfa. Moose, elk, skunks, bears, raccoons, and porcupines also enjoy alfalfa.
Deer is another prime example, as they regularly come across alfalfa when they are grazing in a wide range of fields. It is a great addition to their diet, and it is easy to see why they enjoy it so much. To the average deer, alfalfa hay and grass are considered to be entirely interchangeable.
They will enjoy each of them and they are not particularly concerned about one vs the other. Woodchucks, bison, mice, voles, and cows will be seen eating alfalfa in the wild, too. Birds are no strangers to alfalfa, either. A wide range of birds loves alfalfa, including bluebirds, blackbirds, and the bobwhite quail.
Where is Alfalfa Most Commonly Found?
This crop has been grown in North America for quite some time now. In fact, experts believe that production peaked over 100 years ago, during the years 1910 to 1920. Of course, production declined dramatically once the Great Depression arrived, but things would soon stabilize from there. In the present day, alfalfa remains a major crop in the United States.
California is a common location for this type of hay, but that does not mean that the United States is the only country where it is found. Alfalfa is found in a number of locations around the world, in addition to various North American territories. The pods, leaves, and flowers are all edible, which allows the crop to be consumed raw.
What are Some Common Characteristics of Alfalfa?
Some may also recognize alfalfa by its other name: lucerne. The initial domestication took place all the way back in 2000 BC. The crop was first developed in Persia, which has since become Iran. Alfalfa is grown all over the globe today, as 50 million acres of land are dedicated to the task.
The United States remains the top producer, although many other countries have their own crops available. Alfalfa is utilized for pasture or hay purposes. While these crops can be grown in a variety of different climates, they function best when they are allowed to thrive in temperature climates.
Best of all, these crops are drought-dependent and are able to survive on a very small amount of precipitation each year. 6 inches of rainwater per year is all that it takes. If the soil is well drained and the pH is at the proper level (anywhere from 6 to 8.5), alfalfa will grow at its best.
Depending on the variety, alfalfa will grow anywhere from 1 to 5 feet tall. The leaves will divide three different ways and the stems are hairy. Flowers can vary, as they will be pink or purple. The seeds are hard, black, and small. It is also considered to be one of the best possible feeds for livestock.
Does Alfalfa Have Nutritional Value?
Livestock regularly relies on alfalfa as a primary source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. In fact, the leaves are the part of these plants that offer up the highest level of nutrition. The leaves contain high amounts of magnesium, protein, and calcium. There is a plethora of other micronutrients that can be found in alfalfa as well, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, manganese, and sulfur.
Livestock benefit from the energy boost that alfalfa has to offer. The high levels of crude protein content and total digestible nutrients guarantee it. Farmers who are looking to bolster the amount of vitamin A that their animals are getting will also rely on alfalfa. Alfalfa consumption in livestock is linked to healthy weight gains, improvements in bone structure, heightened milk production, and increased levels of reproductive performance.
Can Alfalfa Benefit a Farmer’s Soil?
If you have ever seen a farmer including alfalfa in their pasture mix, there are a number of reasons for this practice. In addition to the benefits that take place from a livestock health standpoint, alfalfa serves as a way to fix the nitrogen in the soil. This provides valuable assistance as far as the fertility of the land is concerned.
Farmers who are looking for a good source of organic matter will often turn to alfalfa. There is no shortage of benefits for a farmer’s soil. Soil does not always have the proper capacity for carrying water or holding onto valuable nutrients. With the help of alfalfa, these issues will typically become a thing of the past.
In summation, alfalfa has more benefits to a farmer than most realize. Wild animals also benefit from its presence more readily than many would expect. Whether it is being grown as a form of animal feed or it is going to remain a food crop, the advantages are easily understood.
Even if an animal is not consuming alfalfa on a regular basis, it will still enjoy various health benefits. Believe it or not, dogs have also been known to snack on some alfalfa from time to time. No wonder so many farmers rely on this form of feed for their livestock! .