Livestock Foraging Behavior: It may not be what you think!

A number of years ago, I was speaking at a grazing conference to a group of dairy farmers about how their cows went about selecting what to eat from the vast array of plants found in most pastures.  I had just finished telling the group how cows use their senses of sight, smell, touch, and taste coupled with the influence of post-ingestive feedback mechanisms to guide their dietary selections.  I further suggested that I had personally  observed a cow happily munching away on grass tops, dandelion leaves, a sprig or two of clover, and then go back and eat the bottom of the grass she had just taken the top off, essentially nubbing it to the point she had mud on her muzzle. And out of the audience, I heard this guy say “aw that is bullshit, I have never seen my cows do anything like that.” I can tell you, there is nothing quite like being at the front of the room with a laser pointer in hand and having someone in the audience, with a serious need for some vision correction, calling you a liar to make a person think unkind thoughts.  However, once I got my blood pressure back under control and suppressed the urge to burn a small hole in the guy’s eye with my laser pointer, I asked him a simple question. “Have you ever stood out in your pasture with a clipboard in one hand and a stop watch in the other and watched your cows eat hour

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One thought on “Livestock Foraging Behavior: It may not be what you think!

  1. Very well explained, Darrell. I have been asked may times where would be a good place to buy a ranch (I’m in Eastern Colorado) and I reply with, “look for a ranch/farm with the greatest diversity of forage.” Cattle produce well and costs will go down.

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