Russian Knapweed Can Be A Tasty Forage

Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens) is a perennial weed that has proven to be expensive and difficult to control.  In fact, it's very resilience led researchers at Oregon State University to see how it might be used as a forage.  Their results shows that it's high in nutritional value, generally similar to alfalfa, and that cows and in fact there was no difference between alfalfa or Russian knapweed when they were used to supplement other low-quality feed.  The the 2006 paper by Bohnert et al concludes with: "Thus, haying Russian knapweed in the spring and feeding in the winter may provide an alternative to controlling of large scale infestations."  Or - if you can't beat it, eat it! Plant Toxins Russian knapweed is toxic to horses if they consume 60 to 70% of their body weight of the plant.  The sesquiterpene lactone “repin” seems to be responsible for the problem in horses.  Symptoms of the resulting “chewing disease” include a stiffening of the muscles used to pick up and chew food, giving the horse a “wooden” expression.  Animals may hold food in their mouths attempting to chew and the saliva may cause froth around the mouth, giving them the appearance of rabies.  There is no treatment for this poisoning and animals will die as a result.  Be sure that pastures where horses graze have plenty of

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2 thoughts on “Russian Knapweed Can Be A Tasty Forage

  1. When it was decided that cows had to be “babied”, to increase production, we diminished their innate knowledge to live off the land and eat whatever grew there. A cows knowledge can be turned back to what is natural and that makes her so much more efficient. She doesn’t know any different if she is eating nutritious weeds instead of alfalfa hay. This is what she was designed to do! We have to take a step back and study nature, and then work with the cow to build on that knowledge without making her dependent on us for her well being.

  2. Good article Kathy. It is very pertinent to a situation that i’m advising on right now. My nephew owns 200 acres north of Alamosa that is infested with Russian knapweed but has a fair component of perennial native grasses and some fourwing saltbush. He and his father have tried mowing and some spraying to control it but with no or very limited success. He bought are a few head of heifers this past spring to pasture on his place and we used your techniques to train the heifers to eat the knapweed. It worked pretty well this summer. I’d say the heifers eat about 30-40% of their diet was the knapweed so we thought that was fair success. He’ll need to repeat the training on the new cattle he brings on the place next spring. But anyway, thank you for developing the training protocol for us…! We’ve definately turned these feifers in weed eaters thanks to you!

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