The 2013 University of Missouri Extension projected budgets for various crops lists alfalfa at the top for value over total costs per acre. When put up in small squares, they estimate alfalfa value at $1023 per acre or $980 per acre as balage.
By comparison, the budget for dryland corn is $225 per acre as grain or $550 if chopped for silage.
Alfalfa is not adapted to all soils. Alfalfa does well on well-drained soils but avoid planting it on clay or hard pan soils.
"Alfalfa does require a high, near neutral pH so soil test and apply adequate limestone if you decide to plant it," said Cole. "Fertility must be watched annually since removing five or so tons of hay or haylage on a dry basis can deplete fertility levels."
Alfalfa also requires excellent management for insect and weed control. Cole says if you don't like to bale hay several times a summer, alfalfa may not be for you.
To reap the highest dollar value alfalfa forage, many are turning to small rectangular bales along with balage. It is not designed to be stored outside in big rounds. Barn storage or plastic helps preserve the high quality feed.
"Some argue that alfalfa is too valuable to feed to beef cows," said Cole. "That may be true if a producer overfeeds it. But for adult cows, five to eight pounds per day or twice that much every other day, supplements a cow nicely."
Alfalfa is also extremely good as part of a stocker cattle ration. It can be used as a creep feed for calves effectively. Cole says to keep in mind that the pounds you put on a calf are pretty valuable today compared to past years.
"Not every farm needs to grow alfalfa but some farmers in southwest Missouri need to rethink the merits of it as a cash crop and livestock feed," said Cole.
Source: MU Extension