Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the pea family and is raised as an important forage crop all across the world. Alfalfa hay is produced in all three counties of Central Oregon and is generally planted in the fall. Alfalfa can live 4-8 years depending upon the climate and is then replaced with a rotational crop. In most areas, alfalfa is cut three to four times a year, with the first cutting beginning in spring. The first cutting should be taken during the bud stage, with the following cuttings taking place when the field is just beginning to flower. The cuttings are made with a swather and then laid to dry in windrows before they are baled. Alfalfa hay is primarily sold to dairies due to its high protein content followed by other of livestock.
Alfalfa seed production is primarily located in Jefferson County, with some fields also located in Crook County and is planted in the fall. Alfalfa seed must be cross-pollinated in order to maintain high forage and seed yields. Leafcutter bees are used to pollinate alfalfa seed fields in Central Oregon. Alfalfa seed is harvested in the fall, usually September, once the majority of the seed is mature. The alfalfa is first sprayed with a defoliator which causes the leaves to fall off and the seed pods to dry out and finish maturing. Once the field is dry, it is combined, thrashing the seed from the pod. The alfalfa seed is then dumped into bins or a truck trailer and hauled to the seed contractor facility where it is further cleaned and processed.