Eat Your Weeds!

Spring is coming, even if you can't see it under the snow. And you'll know that it really is here when you see something in your pastures that we grew up fearing: WEEDS. But don't worry. Be happy!

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5 thoughts on “Eat Your Weeds!

  1. Hi
    Has there ever been a study on what happens to redroot pigweed seeds if eaten by cows. Does the digestive system kill them or do they come out the backend fertilized and ready to grow?

    1. Hi Richard,

      While the study wasn’t done on redroot pigweed specifically, it was done with lots of other seeds. Turns out that cow pats are GREAT for growing things! So IF a cow were to eat plants with seeds, it is likely that it would come out the other end fertilized and ready to grow. BUT….there are two things to factor in (as I’m assuming that you are worried that you’re going to grow more redroot pigweed. The research indicates that once a plant is in seed it is much less palatable (i.e. has fewer nutrients) so a grazer is less likely to eat it. I have seen this in action when I put cattle in a plot where the weeds had gone to seed. Though they were trained to eat this particular plant, it’s low value no longer appealed to them and they ate other things instead. I would say that when it comes to weed spread, the outside of the cow, and other animals, is more likely to cause us problems than eating them and pooping out the seeds.

      The other thing to remember is that this is a VERY nutritious plant. It is GOOD for your cow, and therefore for you. So if your cow does plant seed, it will come back and eat the resulting plant the next year. Also, once your cattle know how to eat weeds, they will choose weeds in pasture, eating more of them, and less of your grass. I worked with a herd of cows over a three year period to see if I could reduce weeds and increase native grasses in a pasture just by teaching the cows to eat the weeds. After year two, the rancher came by one morning, all tickled to tell me that he could see there was a lot more grass in former weedy areas.

      Hope that helps!

      Kathy

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