Winter forage has yielded more in one cutting than all 5 cutting of many alfalfa harvests. It is both a benefit and a problem. The heavy crop comes out the back of the mower and lands with a splat. It is a lot of material to get to 35% DM.
Winter forage harvested at the flag leaf stage has very highly digestible components. The fiber digestibility is higher than many Brown Mid Rib forages. I have measured sugar levels over 20% on a dry matter basis. The nutritional quality when the mower pulls into the field and what reaches the mouth of the cow can be two very different forages. For those who are still using the old traditional mowing directly to windrow and letting it sit for 2-3 days, what reaches the cow’s mouth is far, far, less quality than what you mowed. Mowing directly to windrow is windrow composting – it is not preserving high-quality forage – it is not drying the forage as fast as it could. It simply aerobically composts the most readily digestible components that could be used to produce milk as it slowly over-dries on the outside. It makes a major difference in the amount of digestible energy reaching the mouth of the cow.