Sneaky Pasture Weeds – Sedges and Rushes

We’ve discussed pasture grasses, legumes, pasture weeds and management ideas for pasture improvement on these pages many times before.  All good topics.  When you call to mind pasture weeds though, I’d bet you picture milkweed, goldenrod, a couple different types of thistles and maybe bedstraw.  These are pesky and important weeds in many pastures, but there are other, sneakier weeds that may escape your attention.  These sly and mischievous weeds require closer inspection and a bit more scrutiny to figure out. Ideally, pastures are dense, perennial sods consisting of mixtures of high-yielding, palatable grasses and legumes.  In reality, most pastures do not quite match this perfect ideal.  Weeds are normally present in some number, ranging from insignificant to seriously problematic, depending on management and history.  Weed density within a pasture can change over time, and can vary from one area to another within a pasture.  You may notice, in your own pastures or hay fields, that weeds are often not distributed uniformly, but rather that some plant species are concentrated on knolls, along the woods, in wet spots, or in high traffic areas. Let’s turn our attention to some particularly sneaky weeds that are often, but not always, found in lower, wetter areas of the pasture – the sedges and rushes.  I’m referri

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3 thoughts on “Sneaky Pasture Weeds – Sedges and Rushes

  1. Some sedges and rushes are unpalatable while others are very palatable (just like grasses). True sedges (Carex) are often very palatable, productive and nutrititious forages and they often occur along creeks and river bottom areas or around the perimeter of ponds. Also, it is common for true sedges to green up much earlier than grasses and stay green after frost.

    Within this large generic group of sedes and rushes includes many plants that the astute manager / grazier should become familiar with. These include: spikerush, bulrush, flat sedge, true sedge, true rush, and many others. In some cases, riparian or wetland pastures may require special management in order to get best use of these.

  2. So are these weeds cows can learn to eat? I saw my cows eating yellow nutsedge one wet spring when it was the first thing to emerge in that pasture. Do we know anything about the nutritional value and/or toxicity of reeds and nutsedge?

    1. The biggest problem with these plants is that they are often not very high in nutritional value. Animals can learn to eat them, though I would probably teach them to eat something else first that is higher in value. My experience is that once animals have started experimenting with foods, they will readily add a bit of everything in the pasture, even things low in nutritional value.

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