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How using PEAQ Stick/ Scissor Cuts Can Benefit Your Alfalfa Field

Source: Sarah Eggert, Meeker County Extension Intern and Karen Johnson, Extension Educator in McLeod & Meeker Counties, University of Minnesota Extension

It’s that time of year where monitoring alfalfa fields and determining the ideal time to cut is critical for forage quality. Deciding when to cut their alfalfa to ensure the best feed value for their livestock is always a difficult task and takes time and consideration. Some fields have suffered from winter injury this past year, so the quality of alfalfa throughout the state is variable.

This summer Extension, in cooperation with local farmers and agribusinesses, are pairing up to do PEAQ stick/ Scissor Cut tests. PEAQ is used as a method to measure the quality of the alfalfa before it is harvested. It is used to calculate the RFV (relative feed value) before it is sent to the laboratory for analysis.  Meeker County is pairing with farmer John Warren, to complete a PEAQ stick/ Scissor Cut analysis on his alfalfa field just southwest of Watkins. Completing this test compares his field’s growth with other fields throughout the state, and also provides more resources for the farmer on when should be the proper time to cut.

The measurements are taken using a wooden PEAQ stick, which measures the longest stem within a two-foot area of a specific place within the field. Specific stems are looked at to determine the growth stage (vegetative, bud, or flower stage). Combining these two variables using an equation, you are able to calculate the average PEAQ RFV of the field. This gives farmers a rough estimate of how far along the alfalfa is, and how soon it can be cut.

When it comes to taking samples from the field, alfalfa samples are cut from four different areas throughout the field, and 10 total height measurements are recorded. The four samples can then be brought to the lab to determine the calculated RFV of the alfalfa in the field and other information that is vital to the farmer and the nutritionist.

The question is, what are the benefits of implementing PEAQ stick/ Scissor Cut tests in your field? Performing this test within your fields will give you a better understanding of the maturity of the field prior to harvest and what the relative feed value is. RFV gives you the rated value that your harvest crop is at once it is cut and fed to livestock. The PEAQ stick is not intended to replace lab analysis for the feed quality, but it does give farmers a more accurate representation of where their field is at then just visual field estimates. 

Using this method should encourage farmers to get out in their fields and monitor their alfalfa closer than usual this season. According to the Alfalfa Harvest Alert Report, when alfalfa gets to be 22 to 24 to 26 inches tall, buds are likely to start to form; and dairy producers might watch for good weather to harvest. Livestock producers will aim for different quality targets based on the type of animals, other ration ingredients, and past experience with harvest and feeding of hay products.

One more thing to also keep a close eye on this alfalfa season is the weather and how it affects the field and growth of the crops. We are all well to familiar that weather can be unpredictable but it plays a vital role in your crops. According to the article in Crop News, typically cool weather affects the plant by lower fiber, high digestibility, and lower crude protein. Cloudy weather results in more fiber and lower digestibility. Wet weather may result in higher leaf to steam ratio and lower fiber accordingly. Keep a closer eye on your alfalfa field this season for optimum results for your livestock and farm.

For more information on PEAQ sticks/ Scissor Cuts and where to find out RFV values and heights of alfalfa fields near you, check out the “Alfalfa Harvest Alert Data” articles found on

Malterer, Tracy. "Predicting Pre-Harvest Alfalfa Quality with PEAQ." Dodge County. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 14 May 2015. Web. 16 May 2017.

Martens, Daniel. "Alfalfa Harvest Alert Data May 15." Minnesota Crop News : University of Minnesota Extension. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 16 May 2017.


Karen Johnson
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 484-4303
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