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July 3, 2021 Health & Production

What We’re Reading | BCRC’s two-part series on overcoming the fear of alfalfa

The following is a preview of a two-part series by the Beef Cattle Research Council. It was originally published in 2019, but remains relevant today.

Fear of bloat costs more money than actual cases of bloat do

Respect it, but don’t fear it. That’s the message from cattle producers and beef specialists alike who through years of experience and research appreciate the value of grazing cattle on pure or percentage stands of alfalfa.

Properly managed alfalfa makes good pasture with several added benefits, including:

  • Improved weight gains on all classes of cattle (gains of 1.5 to 2 or more pounds per day can be expected);
  • adding fertility to the soil with a nitrogen-fixing crop;
  • creating a hedge against poor forage production during dryer growing seasons; and
  • increasing plant biodiversity to benefit soil health.

Read More

Alfalfa is nothing to fear with simple, proper management

The secret — if it is a secret — to pasturing cattle on alfalfa is to follow a few simple management steps to reduce the risk of bloat, say producers from across the country, who for years claim good success by including the forage legume in pasture mixes.

Straight alfalfa stands can be managed quite well, but most producers today are favouring alfalfa/grass forage blends. They are very productive, produce excellent rates of gain on cattle, help to reduce the bloat risk, and also provide important biodiversity. Biodiversity benefits the cattle in providing a range of crops that mature at different times and can handle varying growing conditions, as well as biodiversity to benefit soil health.

The main “not to do” message is don’t turn somewhat hungry cattle into a pre-bloom high percentage stand of alfalfa and leave them to selectively graze the lush leaves. If there is a heavy dew or rain as well, it creates a perfect storm for bloat.

Read More


What We’re Reading’ is a quick look at some of the issues and insights Alberta Beef Producers’ content creators and editors are reading to stay up-to-date, to broaden perspectives, and to explore issues relevant to the agriculture industry.

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Updated: 02/12/2022

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Last Updated on December 1, 2022