Alfalfa is a perennial herbaceous legume. Due to its high nutritional quality, high yields and high adaptability, alfalfa is one of the most important legume forages of the world. A major source of protein for livestock, it is a basic component in rations for dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and other classes of domestic animals. It is cultivated in more than 80 countries in an area exceeding 35 million ha.
While the slender stems and sprouted seeds are sometimes eaten by humans, alfalfa is mainly used as animal fodder. It is usually cultivated for hay, and is frequently used for silage or haylage, dehydrated to make meal or pellets, or used fresh by grazing or cut-and-carry. In several countries, dehydration plants produce alfalfa pellets with standardized protein content targeting specific markets. When managed as a pasture it can be grown as a pure sward or with companion legumes or grasses. Pigment-rich protein concentrates obtained by pressure of the aerial part are produced industrially for poultry nutrition.
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