Pasture for grazing near Sisters, Oregon
What pasture species are good for seeding an undeveloped pasture to graze beef cattle near Sisters, OR? What is a good reference on drylands pasture management?
Deschutes County Oregon pastures and forages
Good morning. In response to your question about seeding mixes for the Sisters area, I would encourage you to give me a call. I have questions about your soil type, do you have any rainfall (average annual) information, and if you are targeting any specific time of the year you want this forage to be available.
Here is a useful publication on managing dryland pastures. While it comes from Montana and Wyoming, for us here in central and eastern Oregon, the information is still useful.
Thanks for the reference document. I believe the soil is a deep loam of mostly sand and silt, with a little clay. The annual rainfall is about 13.5 inches. It would be desirable for the cattle to graze in spring and fall. They would probably be fed hay in the summer and winter, unless something can grow then. There will be about 4 acres of pasture for about 3 animals.
For your location, soils and precipitation, the central Oregon rangeland seed mix sold by Helena in Culver, OR would meet your need to create spring and fall pasture. Seeding time is now, or as soon as the snow melts. We recommend non-irrigated seedings be done from late November through mid-March. It is best to drill seed but if you need to, broadcast seeding (at double the seeding rate) may work. If you broadcast seed, drag a harrow or something that will make sure you scratch the surface of the ground and get good seed-to-soil contact. Seeding rates would be 15 lbs/acre if drilled, 30 lbs/acre if broadcast.
As for grazing this new seeding, I would not graze it for the entire first year of planting and then not graze it until the dormant season following the second growing season. As an example, if you plant it this spring (2017), do not graze it until the fall of 2018. This will give the plant time to establish and the roots to fully develop. Graze it too early and the animals may pull the plants out of the ground.
With just 4 acres of dryland pasture, you won't have much feed for 3 beef animals. Generally, our carrying capacities in central Oregon for dryland pastures are 3 - 10 acres per animal per month. So if you have 3 cows you would need 9 to 30 acres per month for them to graze without the need for supplemental feed. You mentioned you would have plan to feed them hay in the summer and winter months, you will also need to supplement them in the spring and fall as well. You might be able to find pasture to rent in your area that would reduce or eliminate the need to feed hay except during the winter.
I hope this information helps. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any more questions.
Thanks for the timely and thorough expert advice. Best wishes.