At Ray Brothers we have been custom mixing pasture and range mixes since the early 1980’s for our customers. Over the years we have come up with certain mixes that work extremely well in similar situations all over the Intermountain West. These are mixes that we have used ourselves and over the last 5-10 years have received such favorable feedback from our customers that we are now offering them as premixed blends under our own brand names.
Equi-Forage is our irrigated pasture / hay mix, simply because we have found that horse owners will pay a premium for it even when the price of dairy hay and stock cow hay is down. That is not to say that it doesn’t make excellent cow hay because it does. Depending on how it is cut, baled and stored it will go anywhere from 15% to 24% protein and from 145 to 230 on relative feed value. Some of our customers in Iowa and Missouri use it for their dairy hay. Equi-forage is a mix of a hardy, high producing orchard grass, one of our new Generation Fescues and our grazing alfalfa with additional grasses such as Perennial Rye, Creeping Meadow Foxtail or Timothy added depending on the circumstances. This mix is for irrigated ground or where the precipitation levels are 18 inches or better annually. It can be planted in all areas that typically don’t get too far below 20 degrees F. below zero in the winters. Equi-forage is tough enough to hold in as excellent pasture but also usually yields as good as straight alfalfa. A real benefit is that one or two cuttings can be taken off of it to supply the winter’s hay and then it can be pastured allowing the animals to act as the harvesting equipment, thereby saving money and labor.
Steppe-Guard is our mix for dryland range and / or hay on the high, dry plains of the Intermountain West. It is also used for hay fields where two cuttings are desired but irrigation is severely limited. Annual precipitation can be as low as 10 - 12 inches. Steppe-Guard makes decent stockcow hay but is not diary quality and makes excellent rangeland pastures. It is a mixture of very winterhardy, hay-type crested wheat, a multiple dormancy, very palatable intermediate wheat, very drought tolerant orchard grasses and our grazing alfalfa. A multiple dormancy Meadow Brome can also be added if the annual precipitation levels are above 14 inches. This mixture works extremely well for farmers that want to change irrigated grain fields into fields that they can take one or two cuttings of hay off of and then pasture without turning the irrigation on more than two or three times a year.
Because of the difference in seed size Steppe-Guard should be either mixed with grain and drilled or broadcast and rolled or applicated though an air flow fertilizer spreader and rolled. Seed depth should be about 1/4 inch and firm compaction is desirable for best germination.
For those ranchers who want winter grazing and have conditions that are open enough we have found, and independent testing has proved, that feeding or cutting the grass/Forager alfalfa mix and then allowing full regrowth before it goes dormant for the winter not only ups the protein and relative feed value in the winter by 20% to 50%, but also increases the tonnage on the first cutting the following spring. Testing has shown that this type of management, combined with the Forager alfalfa, not only adds 100 lbs of nitrogen per acre, but also increases necessary and helpful bacteria to the soil. The regrowth alfalfa needs to go clear through its growth cycle before winter to achieve these benefits though, so allow 45 days or so of good regrowth.
We know from experience that cattlemen who are also raising hay have plenty to do with their time and have found that it is more profitable to let the cows harvest some of the hay and us not have to feed in the winter, thaw to cut, bale, stack, un-stack, and feed in lousy weather. This also holds true with grazin our BMR Forage corn.