Cattle Can be Good Brush Managers

Cows can do every bit as well on brush as goats. How do I know? I have experience using both for managing vegetation. And this week Dave Pratt tells us how to figure out how much to charge for prescribed grazing services to manage vegetation. He hints that livestock besides goats could be good tools for this. He's right! So here's an article from 2013 about using cattle for brush and vegetation management. For a time I worked diligently to develop simple techniques for creating fuel breaks in brush or for eradicating it from pastures. And of course I used goats because, like everyone else, I was taught that “Goats are browsers and cows are grazers.” But goats aren’t for everybody, and when I couldn’t convince western ranchers to use goats for weed control, I decided to teach the cows to eat them instead. The cows showed me they could eat weeds with just a little bit of training, and then one day in California at the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch the cows showed me something else. They showed me that they could do every bit as good a job on brush clearing as my goats ever did. Most of the cows I’ve trained to eat weeds have become pretty open-minded about trying a little bit of everything in pasture. These particular cows were trained to eat distaff and Italian thistle, and they decided on their own to eat coyote bush, a species known

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4 thoughts on “Cattle Can be Good Brush Managers

  1. Hi Kathy,
    I have seen cows do considerable damage to areas of brush when they were first introduced there. A former Ontario Min of Ag pasture specialist, Jack Kyle, advised students in my Pasture Management course to use cattle to clean out brush from an area that they want to turn into horse pasture. Deb Bennet of California, who wrote a lot about horse evolution and plants that are toxic to horses showed a photo of a horse browsing happily on a black walnut tree (which is supposed to be highly toxic), where there was plenty of grass available. I guess we should not be surprised when we come across something new!

  2. We have some raw milk cows and beef and they have grass pasture with hedge rows and they complety keep the hedge rows open and because they are 100% grass fed I believe the leaves on the different varieties of trees and brush provide nutrients they don’t get from the grass and as the Vet says (once or twice a year)it’s hard to believe you feed no grain. Artifical breeding 96% first service.

  3. In some areas this could make the difference between “just making it” and becoming profitable.

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