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Weeds Are NOT the Problem!

By   /  June 27, 2016  /  3 Comments

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In the last few weeks I have attended a couple of field day, farm tour type of affairs. To my knowledge none of them were sponsored by any of the chemical companies directly, but listening to the folks putting on these things you could very easily believe were in the employ of these companies.

Plants in potsAt one of the stops there was a weed identification program. There were a bunch of those black plastic buckets that you buy plants in at the nursery these folks with a different weed in each one. Each weed was presented to the attendees so that they could see it and hopefully learn its name. The old boy doing the talking then preceded to tell us in no uncertain terms just what kind of chemical we could use to kill each of these weeds, when to use it and how to mix it. There were at least a couple dozen of the samples and this was done with each of them. There was never any mention of costs or how often this process would need to be repeated, but listening to the talk it seemed to be understood that if the weeds reappeared the process should be repeated. There was never any mention of management practices of the forages or the livestock. It seemed to be assumed that if the weed killing was done everything would just fall into place.

The methods used by most folks in the cow business have over the years proved to be no solution at all. I am quoting now from an article by Dave Pratt that I was really surprised to see in a cattle publication last week.

“NO ONE EVER WENT BROKE BECAUSE THEY HAD WEEDS. WEEDS AREN’T A PROBLEM, THEY ARE A SYMPTOM. THEY TELL US THERE IS SOMETHING OUT OF WHACK WITH OUR LAND. KILLING WEEDS WILL NOT PUT THINGS RIGHT”

I apologize for the caps but I did not want this point missed. Since Kathy Voth came to our place last year and taught us how to teach our cows to eat weeds our whole perspective has changed. Now when we walk into a paddock that does have weeds, and this is most of them, we do not see a problem. We see a resource that for years we failed to utilize.

Prices for our cattle are not what they have been for the last few years. This should give producers a reason to look at ways to cut costs without giving up production. Eliminating spraying may be one of those things that can be very helpful in reducing costs and we have learned that eating weeds can be very beneficial for the animals. It just may be that the difference between good management practices and input costs such as spraying will be the difference in a profit or a loss.

And I am still somewhat confused, if all of this spraying of all this stuff works, why are there still weeds in these pastures?

Want more? Here’s Don’s article on training cows to eat weeds:

Teaching Cows to Eat Weeds – A Farmer’s Perspective

And here’s a bit about horse nettle for those of you wondering:

Louisiana Cows Eat Horsenettle

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About the author

My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.

3 Comments

  1. Susan Hagle says:

    I agree that just spraying all weeds is not a logical approach. Soil health, grazing management, plant diversity are first-line defenses. The stock eating some of the weeds has also been a great tool. But at the end of the day, there are still some weed situations that are only addressed by spraying those species for which there is not an workable alternative. Sweetbriar rose and Himalayan blackberry are two examples in our area. They have laid to waste vast acreages that had good soil, good perennial cover, and good grazing management. I taught my cattle to eat them too, but they can’t keep up with these aggressive invaders. Where mowing is not an alternative, spot spraying is a necessary tool.

  2. Dave Pratt says:

    Don, I’m curious, what was the cattle publication that quoted Dave Pratt?

  3. Gene Schriefer says:

    Here in the north central region, if we can keep 30-50% stand of clover in the sward we may pick up 3000 lbs additional forage per acre between the clover and additional grass grown as a result of the extra nitrogen.

    If we zero tolerance and hate “weeds” so much and choose to spray we also kill the clover. we pay for the herbicide and application ~$12/acre. We would expect to apply 150 units of N to grow/replace the 3000 lbs of dry matter, ~$75/acre and then we’d have lower TDN forage without the clover in the hot summer months when the grass is lower in digestibility reducing our rate of gain.

    Having clover and other legumes is win-win-win. Pasture benefits, livestock benefit, soil benefit, insects benefit. When we spray, it’s lose-lose-lose. You spend money, you lose production and livestock don’t gain as well.

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