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Alfalfa : good for us, for animals and for the environment

Valuing alfalfa: a forward-looking approach

In a world marked by political uncertainty and instability, the need to ensure food security emerges as a collective priority. Self-sufficiency in food production, for both humans and animals, is a fundamental pillar of resilience.

The Feed Economy 2023 report by Nomisma and Assalzoo highlights that Italy is 54% self-sufficient for corn, 64% for barley, but only 17% for soy and its derivatives, essential in the feeding of ruminants.

Soy, in addition to being subject to financial speculation, is stigmatized for its negative environmental impact, contributing to the deforestation of our lung (Amazon) and the intensive use of agrochemicals. This situation highlights the importance of seeking sustainable alternatives.

Why alfalfa?

Alfalfa, both ensiled and dried, is a valid alternative to reduce dependence on soy in animal diets. In Italy, over 676,000 hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of alfalfa, representing 5.28% of the Utilized Agricultural Surface (UAA). Although this figure may seem considerable, compared to the many hectares of pastures and permanent meadows present, the need for greater attention emerges.

Over the last twenty years, the area cultivated with alfalfa has decreased by 13%, a trend not only linked to the decrease in livestock farming. In the dairy cattle stable sector, despite a 24% decrease in farms, the total number of animals decreased by only 2.6% according to the BDN.

Unlike concentrates, forages such as alfalfa show considerable variability in their composition. Analysis of data from the Mancinelli brothers' Livestock Analysis Laboratory highlights significant differences in key nutrients between cuts of alfalfa.

Considering the importance of amino acid balance in the production of rumen microbiota and milk fatty acids, alfalfa presents an interesting protein profile. While completely eliminating soy is difficult, especially in high-performance dairy breeds, this is why it is important to continue studying alternative crops to soy and turning more towards alfalfa.

What animals eat alfalfa?

Alfalfa is really good for everyone and is mainly consumed by herbivorous animals, such as:

  • Cattle : Both beef and dairy cattle can consume alfalfa. This plant provides them with a high-quality nutrient source, especially important for dairy breeds. In fact, they find it in our multiphyte stable meadow.
  • Sheep and Goats : Sheep and goats are known to graze alfalfa. Its nutritional composition, rich in proteins and other nutrients, also makes it suitable for their consumption.
  • Equines: Horses and donkeys can be fed alfalfa, especially in dried or ensiled form.

Our supply chain and our polyphytic lawn

The pass begins here, on the lush polyphyte stable meadow that runs alongside the Cascina. This meadow is of particular importance, representing the heart of our animal feeding philosophy. It is a natural environment, rich in variety and nutrients, which contributes to the production of fragrant and nutritious hay for our Italian cattle.

This feeding method, defined as "dry grass-fed", stands out for providing a grass-based diet for the entire year, ensuring continuity even in the less favorable seasons for grazing.

The stable polyphytic meadow is a spontaneous ecosystem, where a myriad of herbs, such as clover, alfalfa, plantago lanceolata and dandelion, grow freely following the rhythms of nature. In just a few steps, you can immerse yourself in this environment rich in scents and biodiversity, testifying to our commitment to a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach.

Alfalfa: towards sustainability and the future

Alfalfa represents a crucial forage in the diets of ruminants, especially dairy ones. Its ability to provide a protein of good biological value can allow a reduction in the use of soy, while reducing the environmental impact.

Its cultivation also requires less synthetic nitrogen fertilization than other crops. However, the variability between companies suggests a lot of room to improve the quality of this important food. Research and awareness are keys to optimizing alfalfa's role in a sustainable food future.