You Can Train Your Livestock to Eat Those Weeds – No Matter the Size of Your Pasture

From March of 2018, it's my annual reminder to you! It's that time of year again when those special forbs start poking their heads up in your grassy pastures. That means it's also the time of year when I remind you, "Those are NOT weeds. That is good forage!" And then I remind you that it only takes 8 hours spread over 7 days to teach your cows to eat them. Will this be the year you try it out? One of the sticking points preventing some ranchers from training their livestock to eat weeds is that by the time the weeds are up, they also need to move their cattle to pasture to take advantage of rapid grass growth. How do you work with cattle that may be spread over really large pastures? That's a scenario that I faced in 2009 when I was training a herd of 50 cow calf pairs grazing on a 500-acre pasture in Boulder County, Colorado. The plan was to herd trainees into a small single-wire electric fenced area inside the larger pasture, teach them to eat Dalmatian toadflax, and then monitor how much they ate of the weed. The problem was that there were two bulls with the herd, and my assistant and I were having a hard moving them into the enclosure where we'd hoped to train them. We couldn't get the bulls to walk through the gate. They walked through the fence instead. After a couple days of building fence, herding cows, watching the bull

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3 thoughts on “You Can Train Your Livestock to Eat Those Weeds – No Matter the Size of Your Pasture

    1. I haven’t trained pigs before, but the process is based on behavior principles and our understanding of how animals choose what to eat. So it should work for pigs, llamas, horses, and children. 🙂 You might have to adjust it a bit for the size of animals, things they’re accustomed to eating, etc. Also, they’re not ruminants so different weeds may affect them differently. If you tell me what weeds you’re interested in I can check them for pig safety.

  1. Walk thru the fence? Yeah, that sounds like teenage boys 🙂 thank you for the article.

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