Spotted Knapweed

If spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) has popped up in your pasture, we recommend using it as forage.  It is quite nutritious, ranging from an alfalfa-like 14-19% protein in the rosette stage, and 10-12% when bolting.  Its primary toxin, cnicin, does not have a great effect on how much spotted knapweed  animals eat and does not cause any health issues.  Grazing it in bolting stage has been demonstrated to reduce seed viability by 90%, and successful grazing projects in the West have shown that a little persistence really pays off. Grazing Spotted Knapweed Sheep and goat grazing is often prescribed for spotted knapweed control.  Sheep have even chosen knapweed over a plethora of so-called desirable forages, among them orchardgrass, timothy, quackgrass, bluegrass, and birdsfoot trefoil.  But if you have cattle, they can do just as well on the plant. In 2004, this was one of the first plants that Kathy Voth taught cattle to eat.  She says its very easy to teach cows to eat spotted knapweed, particularly when she begins in the bolting stage when the plants are easy to clip, and trainees take to it very quickly.  In pasture, animals clip off stems and leaves.  Sometimes they root out and eat the center area of the plant first, and then move on to t

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