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How to grow Lucerne for your dairy cows

Lucerne is an awesome source of protein for your dairy cows. Milk yield increases in a short time after using lucerne which makes it one of the best feeds to give your dairy cows.

Lucerne is a high yielding legume that can be fed directly to cows (after wilting), made into hay or pellets. It performs best in dry areas (under irrigation) or areas with loose soil. Lucerne does not like waterlogged soil which makes its’ long tap root to rot and die off.

Lucerne can last up to 4-5 years with good care. It is, however, a very sensitive crop and can fail to grow well if not cared for. One of the things that need to be taken care of is the crown. This should be protected in all scenarios especially when cutting or grazing your dairy cow.

Important Notes

  • Lucerne packs a lot of protein that will get your cows
  • producing more milk in no time.
  • Its drought resistant and high yielding.
  • Lucerne grows best in loose soil and performs miserably in waterlogged areas.
  • Lucerne is not a fast growing and needs a lot of care to establish itself.
  • Lucerne fixes 200 Kg of nitrogen per hectare every year. Such
  • a big boost in soil productivity.
  • Lucerne can give you an approximate production of 12,000 Kg per hectare per year. (Multiple cutting from 3-4 times per
  • year.
  • Maintain a height of 6-7 cm to avoid crown damage.

How to grow LucerneI

  • Cover crops (i.e other grasses and weeds) will compete with lucerne seedlings for sunlight and nutrients and this can
  • affect crop growth.
  • Lucerne needs a lot of calcium so if your soil has a pH of 6 and above you are safe. It can handle soil up to a pH of 8.5.
  • Do not give weeds or other grasses any space to grow. They will quickly over-take Lucerne due to its slow growth and affect establishment. Use herbicides to do this.
  • Lucerne is a legume and does not need nitrogen to fertilize, it, however, needs a lot of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Apply 100 Kg of single super phosphate fertilizer per hectare.
  • You will be able to see fine spindly stems and narrow leaves which become bluish green (or purple in severe cases) when your Lucerne has a deficiency of phosphorous. This happens often in acidic soils.
  • Potassium deficiency can be noticed when you see yellow or white spots around the margins of older leaves. This reduces yields significantly and increases disease outbreaks.

Sowing

  • Sow Lucerne seeds as soon as the rains begin falling. Do not experiment with irrigation if you do not have enough water lest you fail and cry.
  • Sow the seeds by broadcasting or in shallow furrows of 30cm apart. Sow the seeds at a rate of 5 Kg – 7.5 Kg per hectare.DOuble the number of seeds sown if you are planning to use irrigation (To ensure your success if you play around!). Cover the seeds to a depth of approximately 0.6 cm.
  • Inoculate your seeds from rhizobia if you are growing Lucerne for the first time.
Lucerne growing process

Pests

  • Lucerne can be affected by numerous pests that can cause a lot of damage if not controlled. Make use of chemicals and use resistant varieties.

Harvesting

  • Start harvesting when the crops begin to flower. Cut at 6 cm above the ground every 5 to 7 weeks. Cut Lucerne monthly if grown under irrigation (no jokes).

For more information on feeding Lucerne to your dairy cows please refer to this article

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Graduate Farmer

Graduate Farmer aims is to empower young men and women from becoming job seekers to creators through the agribusiness value chain.

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