Feeding alfalfa silage can provide a small cost-of-gain advantage over alfalfa hay, according to University of Nebraska research. Alfalfa silage tends to have a higher energy content than hay, and less leaf loss and reduced weathering contribute to higher average protein levels and total digestible nutrients compared to hay.

Good storage practices, however, are important if producers are to capitalize on the benefits of alfalfa silage. Feedyards can limit loss of dry matter in bunker silos, University of Nebraska Extension specialists note, by properly chopping, packing and sealing silage with a plastic cover. Minimizing surface exposure and excluding oxygen from the silage pile limits spoilage. Once the pile is sealed, anaerobic bacteria produce acids that reduce pH to 4 or 5, preserving the forage as long as oxygen is excluded. The cost of a plastic cover, the specialists say, is more than offset by reduced spoilage.