This forage, whose scientific name is Medicago sativa, belongs to the family of legumes and the production is widespread throughout the Mediterranean area.
In the Vale del Ebro, an area where it is from our production, alfalfa has a lifecycle of about 5 years and may reach 6.
The crop was introduced into this area by the Persians in the first century BC and usually grows in irrigation and wetlands, with a fairly wide altitudinal range, since it appears between 200 and 2,000 meters.
Alfalfa production has diversified destinations in this area, detailed in the following order of importance, dehydration (over 63%), tedding (25%), and green consumption and silage (12%).
The dehydration process of alfalfa is divided into different phases. First, the crop pass for a pre-drying in the field to reach optimum levels of humidity, about 45%, then are handled and transported to the dehydration plant, where the forage is dried mechanically to achieve optimal levels for storage and packing.
In the process of artificial drying, the crop is placed in a horizontal cylinder or drum, and then is transported through the hot air that allows the gradual dehydration. The leaves, which dry faster, are pushed by the wind into the collector, while the stems (heavier and wet) take longer
The dehydration as a method of forage conservation does not change almost anything the nutritional value of the alfalfa. If there is a slight, although minimal, decrease in the digestibility of organic matter (OM), but there will be no change in the energy value. One detail that alter both the digestibility and ingestion of the animal, is the presentation of the dried forage, remember that this can be: long, short or in granules.
Depending on the form provided to the animals, food effects are different, because the particle size directly influences the digestion.
The advantage of mechanical dehydration of the forage in relation to the hay is that the dehydration reduces the loss of nutritional value (leaves, proteins and vitamins) in the transformation process. It also allows a more homogeneous and controlled drying as well as a lower degree of microbial contamination.
The thermal process applied in the dehydration, reduces the time taken to achieve the desired levels of humid and removes anti nutritional factors that exist in the green alfalfa, as is the case of the estrogen. The control of all points of the process, without depending on climatic conditions, allows the production of standardized high quality forage with great nutritive value and energy.