Alfalfa Negotiations

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Larus, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. Larus

    Larus New Member

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    The place where I am going to keep bees starting in April 2012 sits right next to two big alfalfa fields (owned by the neighbors of the friends who are letting me put hives on their property). There are also wild prairies, livestock pastures, gardens, e.t.c., in the vicinity, so I am not worried about lack of forage for the bees. Still, there's potential for a big increase in my honey harvest if I can take advantage of the alfalfa crop.

    I've heard, and read, that most alfalfa growers, unless they are specifically interested in producing alfalfa seed, don't let the plants flower - they cut the crop down for animal feed before that. On the off chance that my future neighbors are alfalfa seed producers, I don't think 3 hives are enough to pollinate a field of alfalfa - I've read that honeybees and the alfalfa flowers aren't really made for each other (DOI: 10.1002/scin.2007.5591710110).

    My question is: does anyone have any advice on how I can convince my neighbors to wait several extra days before cutting the alfalfa to let the plants flower and let the bees work the flowers for a while? Maybe offer them a certain amount of honey in return? How many "extra days" would this entail?

    Thanks.
     
  2. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    Larus, farmers try to get 3 to 4 (i have seen 5) cuttings off there alfalfa fields and it is recommended that they cut it in the bloom to do this. It is prime cattle feed so iy would be hard to talk them into letting it stand through it's bloom. My neighbor has a 40 acre alfalfa field across the road from me and sometimes we have to much rain during the bloom and he can't get his equipment in the field, but my bees can. :thumbsup: . He will let it bloom sometmes (most of the time) for 3 days, he says to let mt bees work it (i keep him in honey :mrgreen: ) The down side of alfalfa fields, is they use some bad insecticdes on it that kill bees. My neighbor sprays early mourning or late in the evening, so far i haven't had any trouble.The best advice i can give is, meet the farmer and see what you can workout in a friendly way. :drinks: Jack
     

  3. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    depending on what the farmer is using the hay for. If they are looking for high protein dairy grade hay they will cut it before the bloom. Dairy hay is to rich for beef cattle and some will let it start to bloom before cutting this allows other grasses to grow up into the hay dropping the protein. Where I have had luck is mother nature. If she keeps the ground wet enough they cant get in to cut they have no choice but let it go to bloom. As for bees and alfalfa blooms the bees have to learn to "trip" the nectaries to release the nectar once they figure this out you can get a good crop off alfalfa
     
  4. Marbees

    Marbees Member

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    Same as Larus, in 2012 I'll be starting my new yard next to 40 acres field of alfalfa.
    Land is owned by my friend and rented to his neighbor who owns horses.
    My friend doesn't allow use of any chemicals on his land, so that way my bees should be safe.
    Thanks for the tip Jack. :thumbsup: I'll try to negotiate a few extra days of blooming time. :D
     
  5. jb63

    jb63 New Member

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    I like to let mine bloom to bring the protein down for horses.If it's for dairy they will cut pre- bloom even if it goes silage instead of dry hay.The down side to cutting pre-bloom is that the field doesn't last as long and they have to replant sooner.I get three cuts on a thirty day schedual but I don't do that much any more.I get the same tonage from timothy hay and I only have to cut it once.The bees do like the alfalfa though,when it blooms it's for five to eight days.
     
  6. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    5 to 8 days. Just like most other blooming plants.
     
  7. BjornBee

    BjornBee New Member

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    You can always tell when alfalfa blooms are actually putting off nectar. Look across the field and if you see butterflies, they are producing. Delaying cutting a couple days really does not do much. Like clover and other flowers, it's usually the second half of the bloom that really produces.
     
  8. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    Like most things, and maybe especially, one does things when one can, not when one wants to. I've seen apple orchards being pruned when the trees were in full bloom. I imagine hay farmers are the same way. W/ predictions of three days of sun they'll be out there cutting alfalfa.
     
  9. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    On the upside, the price of hay these days (at least in ND) is VERY low. That might encourage some of the growers to not cut quite so much.

    I have hives on fields that are cut as soon as the farmers can see the buds (sometimes 4 times/year). I have hives on other fields where the farmer only cuts once - sufficient to feed his stock through the winter. I have noticed that, as long as the field is large enough, bees get some nectar from the alfalfa - probably because there are always a few plants that bloom early.

    I have also noticed that while the field might get cut, there is usually plenty of 'wild' alfalfa in the ditches near these fields that tend to get cut last - these are usually good for a extra days of nectar at least.
     
  10. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    I have seen farmers around here that would leave a strip 20 foot wide the length of the field for the bees when cutting the hay. on the second cutting they would cut that strip and leave another. so forth and so on through the summer. The farmer you are wanting to talk to might go for that quicker than letting the whole field bloom and you will benifit better by this practice
     
  11. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    tyro, the big round bales of hay in my area is going for $50.00 and i hear in Texas $100.00 a bale and thats just grass hay. Don't know what alfalfa hay would bring? but you would have to add several more dollars. If you can find it. :confused: Jack
     
  12. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    to update Jacks $ figures more like $120 + for anything worth feeding. rice hay shipped in from who know where with almost no feed value is $80.

    for Larus:
    with small number of hives,,,, think about just the margins of any field that is not mowed or harvested.
     
  13. rwurster

    rwurster New Member

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    My hives sit at the center of 200 acres of alfalfa. We cut ours a few days after bloom but try not to let it go longer than a week. This year we sold our alfalfa for $200 a ton, and sold all of it. I hope those prices carry over to next year. In northern Colorado the prices were around $120.
     
  14. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    It's kind of scary, look at the price of cattle on the hoof at todays market :shock:, and what it cost to get them to the weight of 700 to 1200 pounds. Then add all the processing, ect. to get it to the store coolers. Of course the high hay price is due to the strange weather we are having in parts of the US of A. It sounds like the farmer is getting rich, but they are making about the same, the only difference we're just handling larger amounts of money. :confused: Then to come to think of it, i'm getting $4.00 a pound for honey :eek: Makes you wonder how much more the market can bare doesn't it. :confused: Jack
     
  15. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    jack writes:
    Makes you wonder how much more the market can bare doesn't it.

    tecumseh:
    given some of the prices I have actually seen on bottles of honey here and there (and almost all not especially of high value*) this IS the bee keeper's primary marketing question of the age.

    *i have noticed one fairly significant commercial producer here sell blends of honey (which appeared to be 2/3 low valued tallow honey) for as much as $8 a pound here.