The Rocker 7 Difference

Your options for purchasing high quality wholesale alfalfa may be plentiful, so what differentiates Rocker 7 Farms?

Brandon likes to tell people, “There are plenty of guys who can bale good hay in Arizona.” And it’s true. Our soils, climate and conditions lend themselves to making good hay, as long as a farmer is paying attention to all the variables and baling at the right time each night. More and more growers are adding baler scales and moisture meters, which provide a constant stream of information about each bale as it exits the baler.

So where do we have an edge?

Well, that lies in what we call “sorting”.

Which is why Brandon spends a lot of time with each customer discussing their definition of “good hay,” since we have definitely learned over the years this differs with each person. Some customers focus on leaf retention in the bale; others are most concerned with stem size. If you asked each person which quality factor they would prefer to “give a little” on, you would receive a lot of different answers. But a big part of keeping customers happy is knowing what those things are for each person, and doing our best to deliver the hay that particular customer has in mind.

And that’s our edge.

Knowing customers, sorting all our hay appropriately, and sending the right hay to the right customer.

This means that all the hay we grow or decide to inventory from a neighbor is evaluated for each quality characteristic, and stored in a certain section of one of our four barns, to keep everything sorted and ensure each customer gets the right kind of hay. We even have some mornings during baling where Brandon calls a certain customer because he just knows he baled up a load they would like and wants to get it to them.

Why is sorting so important to us?

We only sell as much hay as our customers do. So if we are selling to a retailer (feed store, etc.), we want to make sure they are getting the kind of hay their customers like to buy. And in the more rare cases where we sell directly to an end-user, we realize the investment they are making in their out-of-state purchase, and want to ensure they (and their animals) are happy with the product we send. Our goal is always longevity with our customer base, and we feel like strong communication on expectations in the beginning, combined with our in-depth sorting process sets us all up for success.

The hay business is our family business – we are growing, baling and marketing our own hay, then spend additional time seeking out certain types of hay to keep our full customer base supplied year-round.

 

Hay pricing and availability

I’m sure you’re wondering why we don’t just have a price list for our current hay selection available online.

Believe it or not, we have a really great reason:  We value human interaction.

While at the simplistic level we do just enjoy actually talking to folks we are going to do business with, it also helps ensure we deliver the forage product you desire.

You see, if there’s anything we’ve learned in our years of selling high quality alfalfa hay, it’s that everyone has their own definition of “high quality”. So, we really like to have a conversation with you to find out exactly what you’re looking for in terms of stem size, leaf retention, color and moisture. All of those factors affect the price point of any given load of hay, so we can work together to determine which quality factors are most important to you, while allowing you to stay within your particular budget.

Once we know the hay type and price point you prefer, we can let you know what we may have available. Why can’t we at least list availability of certain hay types, you ask? Well, it changes – daily. From mid-February through early November, we are baling hay nearly every single night, with different weather conditions each night. Then, each morning, some hay is shipped to local dairies, some is shipped to current customers, some is stored in the barn for winter months, and some is reserved for new hay sales. There is just literally no feasible way to update availability online each night and day.

So, we really hope you don’t mind giving us an old-fashioned phone call for alfalfa hay pricing and availability. We ensure you it’s the best way to meet your forage needs.

“Certified Noxious Weed Free” alfalfa now available

Were you looking for “Certified Noxious Weed Free” alfalfa?

We have good news:  look no further.

Rocker 7 Farms now proudly offers hay under this certification. Whether you just want to ensure quality in the hay you feed, or you work for an organization which requires it, we can now meet that need. We are able to sell directly to government agencies such as the National Park Service and US Forest Service, which we have done in the past, and are happy to meet the needs of individuals as well.

The “certified noxious weed free” designation means the field has been inspected, deemed free of any noxious weeds and approved for certification.

Just to be clear, we are actively engaged in weed control in all our fields, and take pride in having very minimal (if at all) weed issues in every load we sell.

If you order “non-certified” hay from us, it does not mean it contains these weeds. We’re just only certifying a few fields in order to have price and quality options available to you at every level – so you truly get to determine which hay is right for you!

Be sure to specify in your inquiry if you’re interested in hay meeting the noxious weed-free certification. We also encourage you to get in touch with us and get your order in place for certified hay to be sure we can have some headed your way when you need it.

Off to a good start…

The 2010 hay harvest is in full swing around here, so we thought we would give you a little glimpse of what’s been going on at Rocker 7 Farms to get our first few cuttings for the season under our belt.

We have all our fields in a rotation, which means once we start cutting, we don’t stop for about a week (as long as the weather cooperates).

First, we take the swather out to the field to cut some fresh, green alfalfa.

Cutting hay at Rocker 7 Farms

A couple days later, we bring out the rakes to “fluff” the hay and rake it all into “wind rows” to prepare for baling.

Hay rakes

Brandon's brother, Justin, on his rakes

Wind rows

The wind rows left behind by the rakes

The very next morning, we bale it all up.

Hay bales

And lastly, we use the roadsider to pick up all the bales and put into stacks. We usually move the stacks into the barn with the retriever truck, to be stored until they’re loaded onto a truck. We typically have eight or nine cuttings on each field throughout the season. It’s enough to keep us busy, that’s for sure!

Hay stack

Stay tuned through the summer for more Rocker 7 updates…

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
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.

Leaf
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.

Stem
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!