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Steers That Eat Rabbits

By   /  July 22, 2019  /  1 Comment

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Here’s a little-known fact: On Pasture exists because of this picture:


If I’d never met Fred Provenza, and if he’d never invited me to audit his “Plant Herbivore Interaction” course at Utah State University, you would not be enjoying the 2,300 articles in On Pasture’s library.

Yes, this is a steer eating a rabbit. Fred showed the class this picture just before I had to leave for a week of travel for my job with the Bureau of Land Management. For the whole week I wondered, “How did that steer catch that rabbit?” And as I drove from Grand Junction, Colorado back to Logan, Utah I looked at the scattered cattle grazing on the range in a whole new light. OMG! If they got hungry enough would they chase down little kids? (I have a pretty wild imagination.) So when I got back to USU, I headed straight to Fred’s office for answers to my questions.

This steer was part of a trial to see the effects of grazing on phosphorous deficient soils. The herd decided to solve the problem by eating dead rabbits found in the pasture for the phosphorous in their bones.

Of course! We’ve all seen animals nibble on bones and a variety of strange things, and we’ve made the connection that they’re eating to solve a problem. But I hadn’t realized it could go quite so far. I was fascinated and I wondered, “What else can we do with this?”

Turns out, you can teach cows to eat weeds, and that was my next step. And after touring the U.S. and Canada teaching cows, sheep, bison and goats and presenting at conferences and workshops, I realized there was all kinds of helpful information that wasn’t getting out to the farmers and ranchers who really needed it. And so On Pasture was born.

Why am I telling you this? Learning about how animals choose what to eat and where to live, and that it doesn’t work the way we thought it did, has changed my life and I think it can change your life too. So, over the coming months, I’ll be sharing what researchers have found, and how you can use it to grow more forage, graze more successfully, and be more profitable. Here’s Part 1.

Here’s another reason you’re reading On Pasture today.

In 2016, On Pasture received a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service that has covered more than half of the cost of bringing On Pasture to you. Without it, On Pasture would not be here today.

Our grant expires in November of 2019 and I’m currently working on another grant application for the next step in On Pasture’s future. Help me show that you’d like On Pasture to continue. Send in monthly support that we can use as match for grants. And, if your organization supports what we’re doing here, consider becoming a sponsor.

Thanks for reading and for your support!


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  • Published: 7 months ago on July 22, 2019
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  • Last Modified: July 22, 2019 @ 7:38 pm
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Edmund says:


    Deer and squirrels are opportunists that will sometimes eat other animals. I knew a guy who worked a park and he told of deer taking steaks off the grills at cook-outs. Can’t say I blame them…

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