Saying goodbye to winter

Well, we know those to the north and east won’t like to hear this, but it’s just about time for Rocker 7 Farms to wish winter farewell.

That’s right, we’re expecting temperatures to climb into the 80s as early as next week, and plan to begin cutting hay just as soon as this week’s prediction of precipitation clears.

And you know what that means…a fresh supply of green, leafy alfalfa, sent direct from our barn to yours, is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn down quite a few orders this fall and winter, and hope to really turn that around this spring and summer with all the new hay we have coming out of the field. We want to keep your barns full and your horses happy!

Sign up here to receive the latest news on our first cutting, which is just around the corner. And thanks for choosing Rocker 7 Farms as your source for high quality Arizona alfalfa hay. (We have a bit of straw and Teff grass hay left, too!)

What about blister beetles?

Blister Beetle, image courtesy of Iowa State University website

Blister Beetle, image courtesy of Iowa State University website

If you own a horse (or maybe even if you don’t), you have certainly heard buzz about blister beetles when it comes to selecting alfalfa.

It’s a bug. What’s the big deal?
Blister beetles contain a blistering agent called “cantharidin,” which is highly toxic to horses and other livestock. If the beetles are consumed in forage, they have been shown to cause irritation in the lining of the stomach, small intestine, bladder and urethra in horses. The severity of damage depends on how much is consumed. Horses that eat a large amount could die within six hours; a small amount only produces mild colic.

Do we have blister beetles?
This is where it gets a bit touchy. While most of the U.S., including other parts of Arizona, have encountered blister beetles in alfalfa stands, they remain unseen in our location. However, we aren’t going to claim “it could never happen” or that we’re “the only place you can’t find them”. But for now, it appears alfalfa grown in Maricopa County, Arizona, has proven to be blister beetle-free. To ensure quality and protect our customer’s horses, we do have our fields checked weekly for any insect problems.

What’s the best way to prevent blister beetle threats?
Know where your hay is coming from. By purchasing hay direct from the grower, like at Rocker 7 Farms, you know exactly where every bale was harvested.

Talk to your grower. Find out how they manage for things such as insect control, and if they’ve ever had trouble with blister beetles.

Oklahoma State University published an extensive paper on “Blister Beetles and Aflalfa,” which is where we received much of our information.

Why buy from Rocker 7 Farms?

We realize you have quite a few options when it comes to selecting hay. So what are a few things we think set us apart?

Ideal growing conditions
We’ve mentioned before how Arizona offers an excellent environment for producing high quality alfalfa hay, and it’s absolutely true. Since weather conditions are the same for most of the year, we virtually control every aspect of the growing process.

Covered barn storage
Nearly every bale at Rocker 7 Farms is moved right from the field to a covered barn for storage. Occasionally, when the barns are full, it might be temporarily tarped. But for the most part, we offer barn-stored hay year-round.

Wide selection year-round
We don’t just have any hay year-round. With the exception of about three months a year, we have green, freshly cut hay. We try to keep a well-rounded product mix on hand, too, to ensure you get just the right bale you’re looking for, from Number One Alfalfa to Cow Hay to Grasses and Mixes. And you can purchase by the bale, stack or semi load.

Delivery and shipping available
We are happy to offer local deliveries for a fee arranged at the time of purchase. We also ship semi-loads extending beyond the West Valley, including out-of-state customers.

Buy direct from grower
Instead of dealing with a middleman hay broker, you speak directly with the grower. This is our quality assurance plan. If we grow it, harvest it, and sell it, we know exactly what our customers receive.

A tightly knit bunch
Rocker 7 Farms is owned by third generation farmer Brandon Leister, and his wife Katie. Leister Farms, owned by Brandon’s parents Dean and Rayanne and assisted by his brother Justin, helps out with much of the harvesting. After the harvest, we combine efforts for retail and wholesale sales and marketing. So you’re supporting a true family farm operation when you choose Rocker 7 hay.

Pride in our product
Nothing makes us happier than delivering to a customer exactly what they wanted. We take great pride in growing, harvesting and selling high quality hay, and often take extra effort to produce only the best.

Why Arizona hay?

Rocker 7 Farms is proud to service customers across Texas and Louisiana, all of whom have access to hay with a much lower cost of freight.

So why are they choosing Arizona hay?

Of course, it all comes down to personal preference, but we have a few ideas on why these customers and many more are looking to Arizona to fill their need for high quality hay.

First, hay season in Arizona can last from February until November, averaging eight to nine cuttings each year. This means freshly cut, green hay is available almost year-round, with the exception of a few winter months.

Second, our hay only sits in the field three days after cutting. The desert climate is perfect for timely hay harvesting, ensuring we put green bales in the barn. Throughout the summer, hay is cut on day zero, raked on day three, baled the night of day three or early morning of day four, and in the barn on day four. So aside from the occasional summer monsoon hitting a cutting, most Arizona hay is typically rain free, eliminating concerns about mold and nutritional damage.

Third, all hay (at Rocker 7 Farms, anyway) is stored in covered barns, so once it’s in the bale, it’s safe from any weather concerns.

Fourth, in the long run, you save money feeding our three-string 100 pound bales, compared to the two-wire bales grown elsewhere.

Maybe the question should be “Why NOT Arizona hay?”

How do I select good hay?

We’ve been in the hay business long enough to know everyone has their individual preferences. We’ve even had customers select what we have labeled as our “Number Two” alfalfa over what we think is the top quality hay.

But just in case you’re new to feeding, or need a few tips, these three selection criteria should give you a good start.

Color should be considered when selecting hay, but not relied upon as the main factor in your selection.

  • Green – Can signal high protein and vitamin content, but also might mean the hay is low in nitrates and has decreased palatability.
  • Yellow/Beige – Might simply be bleached from the sun on the outside, but could also be from a light rain prior to baling.
  • Dark brown – Signifies heat damage due to extremely high moisture content when baled, or from rain after baling; also a good chance it contains mold. Not a good choice for horses, but works for cattle.

The leaves of a plant are where most of the energy is stored. Therefore, the more leafy the hay, the higher quality and better source of energy.

Stems that are softer and more flexible are ideal. There is nothing wrong with the tougher, thicker stems. This just usually means the alfalfa was more mature at harvest (more days passed between cuttings), and it might have slightly lower nutrient quality.

The most important factor in your hay selection is the type of animal you’re feeding. Horses need higher quality feed, and have a difficult time with dust and mold. Cattle, sheep and goats get by just fine on lower quality feed.

Happy hay hunting!

How do you farm in the desert?

Now that’s certainly a good question. And to be honest, it’s not easy.

In fact, after one long, hard day at work, I asked Brandon, “Is it this hard to farm everywhere in this country?”

He asked back, “Well, what did we do all day that made today so hard?”

I responded, “Irrigated.”

He said, “Well, I guess that answers your question. Dryland farms don’t have to irrigate, and irrigating is 90 percent of what we do. And irrigating isn’t as difficult when you use other systems, like pivots.”

Don’t get me wrong. I would never tell any farmer he had an easy job. But I do know ours would be a bit easier if we weren’t constantly having to irrigate our crops, and especially if our method of irrigation were something other than the canal- or well-fed flood irrigation system. But for now, it is.

All of our fields are located within the Roosevelt Irrigation District, so we pay them for every drop of water that goes on a crop, in exchange for use of their elaborate canal system, which is the only way for us to access water. That is, unless we wanted to dig a bunch of wells and pay to pump our own water. Not only is that an expensive option, it’s not really even an option in our case, since most of the ground available is leased.

Anyway, back to farming in the desert.

Some of our fields have ditches with “port holes”. We plant these fields in “borders” and each border gets watered by opening its respective ports to let water from the ditch flood the border. Depending on the size of the border and how much water we’re running in the ditch, we’ll move the water to a new border (through a system of “checks” placed in the ditch, opening new ports and closing the current ones) every one to four hours, or so.

Other fields do not have these “ports” or are growing crops which require to be planted in rows. In these cases, “siphon tubes” are used to siphon water from the ditch into the field.

Other than the irrigating, which can be tough work some days, farming in the desert is just like farming in other parts of the country. And often, we feel like we have an advantage with our weather pattern. If there’s anything a farmer can’t control, it’s the weather, but living in the desert, where it’s hot and sunny 360 days each year, you virtually have control over the weather risk factor.

Until a summer monsoon rains all over freshly cut hay, anyway.

Welcome to Rocker 7 Farms

Welcome to Rocker 7 Farms, a diversified Arizona family farm operation.

We’re glad you stopped by.

If you’re looking for hay, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got quite the selection to provide the precise intersection of quality and price you’re looking for.

You can learn more about what we grow, take a look at some cattle or get to know us. And if there’s a question we don’t answer here, never hesitate to get in touch.

We sure hope to hear from you soon, or better yet, see you down the road!