Tricia's walking the hills at a local ranch and talking about how to choose ideal pasture seed mixes.
We cover the basics of pasture management in an intro video, and in our latest video Tricia troubleshoots some pasture management problems.
You can’t have a pasture without pasture seed. Whether you’re starting a new pasture or renovating an old one, run through our quick checklist to help you choose the pasture seed or seed mix that will give you the most productive pasture.
If not, you need dryland pasture seed. Without extra irrigation you’ll need to plant only cool-season grasses or legumes that will grow when Mother Nature is turning on the spigot in the fall. Popular dryland mixes are Grass Valley Range Mix (Nitrocoated seed) for overseeding and erosion control, and the all-legume Low Rainfall Dryland Pasture Mix (Nitrocoated seed).
If you live in an area with steady rainfall year-round, or you have irrigation in place, you can choose from our irrigated pasture seed, using both cool and warm-season grasses. Customer favorites are Organic General Livestock Pasture Mix (Nitrocoated seed), and the diverse Herbal Pasture Mix (Nitrocoated seed).
Who’s eating all this green stuff anyway? Will you be running cattle, horses, sheep, goats—or all of them?
Check with your veterinarian about the best grazing for your livestock. A general guideline if you’re pasturing cattle, horses and sheep is to watch the amount of legumes in a seed mix —since these animals may bloat and die if they eat too many legumes.
We have custom seed mixes for various livestock:
If you’re pasturing chickens then boost the Omega-3 levels in their eggs by growing them our flax-rich Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend. Plant this warm-season blend in a separate, irrigated pasture area, then turn them loose on it and let them eat it down to a 3” height. Rotate the chickens to another spot and let the Chicken Forage Blend grow up again.
Legumes are an important ingredient in a pasture mix; they feed the grasses by taking nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil. This “nitrogen fixing” is maximized if the legume seeds have rhizobacteria added at the time they’re planted.
Get those necessary rhizobacteria with pasture seeds that are “nitrocoated”—the coating applied to the surface of each seed adds rhizobacteria and keeps the seed properly moist, leading to better germination. The coating on our nitrocoated seeds is an OMRI-approved, organic coating, even though the seeds that are being coated may be conventional seeds.
Raw seed is usually more expensive than nitrocoated seed because you are getting so much more seed per pound.
In irrigated pastures, cool-season grasses are the earliest to grow in spring, followed by legumes. When summer comes the cool-season grasses flag, but the legumes keep going, and warm-season grasses (both annuals and perennials) take off. In fall the cool-season grasses revive.
In dryland pastures most of the legumes are annuals and tend to go to seed in summer.
Sierra Nevada foothills (under 3,000 feet elevation, poor soil, high rainfall)—we live here and know this soil, so we developed Sierra Foothill Dryland Mix (Nitrocoated seed).
Mountains (over 3,000 feet elevation, cold winters)—for our neighbors up the hill, Intermountain Pasture Mix (Nitrocoated seed).
We even have mixes for problem areas or difficult soil conditions, such as our Alkali Pasture Mix.
You can make your own mixes with the many individual grasses and legumes we offer.
What’s a weed? In a home garden it’s any plant in the wrong place. In a pasture things are more flexible and the weeds are actual bullies that want to take over. They typically are stemmy and lack the nutrition offered by broad-leaf legumes.
Keep an eye out for these thugs of the pasture as you walk your property. Take a good look at our photos of these ag criminals so you know them when you see them.
One way to control weeds is to whack or mow when the weeds are taller than your desirable pasture seeds. For instance, when the “good” plants are 6” tall and the weeds are 12” tall, whack down to the 7” level and you’ll hurt the weeds, not your pasture seeds. This technique will weaken the weeds and if you repeat this several seasons you’ll reduce the number of weeds.
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense) can be rooted out by pigs.
Smut grass (Sporobolus indicus), short or tall, got its name from a black fungus that sometimes appears in the center of this bunch grass.
Keep all these things in mind when you choose pasture seed, for verdant pastures and happy livestock!
KIM CHABRAYA Says:
Dec 28th, 2014 at 9:05 pm
What is a good blend for Barbados Black Bellied sheep for grazing in the 97496 area? There is no irrigation and only wild grasses. We have a small flock of 10 or so and we supplement with baled grasses. There’s about 3 acres available to them.
Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 9th, 2015 at 1:20 pm
You are in USDA zone 8b and in a “dryland” situation. But really you need to determine how much rainfall you receive to know if you need a dryland mix. You also may want to do some research on sheep nutrition because some animals cannot eat certain types of forage, like clovers. Otherwise I hesitate to make any firm recommendations. So consider rainfall, irrigated vs. non-irrigated and whether or not there are any seeds to stay away from for sheep. Hope this gets you started.