A herd of deer in our AlfalfaWeather is a huge risk.  Precipitation needs to come at the right time in the growth of the plants.  Average daily temperature must be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit but below 75 for optimum grass growth and a little warmer for alfalfa.  Hail when the crop is tall, right before cutting is bad because it can knock plants down making it hard to cut.  It is difficult to get hay to dry here in September because of so many freezing nights, yet repetitive thunder storms in August can push the schedule out.  Hay must be cut at a certain level of maturity to ensure the highest nutritive value.

Another problem for every farmer is weeds.  Sometimes before planting a long-term crop, farmers attempt to farm weeds out by growing a grain crop for a year.  Weed seeds remain viable in the soil for many years.  A good defense is to establish the desired crop and not give weeds a chance to germinate or grow through tough competition.

Rodents, mainly moles and gophers are a threat as they create mounds which kill plants and harm equipment.  One of our defenses are coyotes.  February and March in early mornings can be entertaining as coyotes hunt rodents.  They listen, pounce, pound the ground and listen again all with their big bushy tails sticking up like a flag.  Sometimes we harrow the ground early in the spring to stimulate the plants and disperse dirt from any mole mounds.

Other issues include wildlife damage.  Deer consume about 3% of their weight in food per day.  Large numbers can consume a great amount of hay, but the damage they do to the growing plants prohibits proper growth.  In addition the deer knock down a considerable amount which the swather can not pick up.