Saturday, May 25, 2024
HomeLivestockBehaviorCan Cattle Control Oxeye Daisy?

Can Cattle Control Oxeye Daisy?

A few summers ago I worked with Trish McKinney and the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Invasive Plant Committee in British Columbia, Canada.  The project included taking some ranchers through the Coaching Program to help them train their cows to eat weeds, and then doing a presentation to share information with all the area ranchers and to show them some cows trained to eat spotted knapweed.
Bobs cows in pasture
Bobs cows in pasture

One of the training challenges for the ranchers in that area is that they turn their cattle out onto Crown Range.  Crown Range pastures are large, and are often far from ranchers’ homeplaces, so they may not see their cattle again until they round them up and bring them home in the fall.  But Bob Godfrey of Horsefly, BC proved that with a little perseverance and some adaptation, even that challenge can be overcome.

Bob has a small herd of 20 cows that graze on 8,000 acres.  Normally he doesn’t see much of them all summer long.  Occasionally they show up at the fence line near one of his hay pastures.  Since he wanted them to learn to eat Oxeye daisy, I wrote up a training plan for him, and we agreed that when the cattle showed up at the fence line, he would start the training.  Here’s how it went:

Training Tub for Oxeye DaisyHi Kathy,
We finally got started on the program on Saturday at noon. Sunday we got a morning and evening feeding. I couldn’t believe how fussy the cows could be for unfamiliar treats. They pushed the alfalfa pellets and the flattened corn around the tub for awhile before they finally ate it. The cows ate the cob readily but I think it was because it is similar to dairy ration I feed occasionally when I want the cows to gather around.

Hi Kathy and Trish,
Monday feeding went well and they were in the same place both times, only problem was I couldn’t get tubs to the site. I did the next best thing and put the grain on the ground on a nice bed of salad (a monoculture of orange hawkweed rosettes). Tuesday was a bust as there was no sign of the cattle, a storm had washed all tracks away. I drove quad for 45 kilometers and nothing. Tuesday night I drove for 2 hours and finally heard them in towards a lake that is totally inaccessible. I called and they were quite faraway when they answered. Before they found me a thunderstorm caught me so I hid under a spruce tree for 10 minutes and when it let up a bit I hightailed her home. They were within a mile of the tubs from day 2 so I am going to try get them there today because the tubs are necessary to mix weeds in the next day. This weather is not good for haying or treating weeds, I think the spotted knapweed I sprayed before I talked to you Trish will have to be redone. Weatherman called for a clear day too.
Have a great day,

Cow Eats Oxeye DaisyHi Kathy,
I got both feedings in today. It took quite awhile to get the cows in the morning and we cut some trail towards them but in the end we got to the tubs. they were excited and crowded the tubs. We had the final feeding of treats and used the alfalfa cubes. The cows really went for the feed but they didn’t really like the cubes and it took them a long time to finish. The calves spent a lot of time sniffing and nibbling so I suspect they will also learn at the tubs and not from their mothers. The grandkids came out with me last night and they picked a few daisies and threw in with the feed, they are looking forward to feeding a lot of daisies with the bran today. I’ll let you know how it goes today.

In the end, Bob was successful.  The cows ate oxeye daisy from the tubs and then in pasture as well.  Whether or not they can make a difference is still up in the air.  He has such a big pasture and so few cows that they will really have to chow down to even make a dent.  But at least now we know that even with such a large pasture, cows can successfully learn to eat a new food.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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