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Can Cattle Help With Seeding?

By   /  October 28, 2019  /  4 Comments

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Readers have asked if cattle can be used for seeding pastures, or if there are examples of others th
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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. Jim Gerrish says:

    We have long referred to this type of seeding as ‘hoof & tooth’ seeding.
    Legumes and hard seeded forbs are what work the best for stockpiling forage, grazing for a day or two & then moving stock to target field for 2-3 days to let the seed pass through.
    Most grass seed is digested in the rumen, but there is a small amount that may pass through. Endophyte infected fescue certainly seems to get spread via manure.

  2. red says:

    Run the feeder cows over it, Dad told a cousin new to farming. You feed clover hay in the barn lot, so fence it off in small pastures and run them in there.
    He did and the next year the hay fields had few annual weeds and a lot of good quality clover. Hey, it works too well for mesquite, no? A lot of plants hard seed and acid in the stomachs wear off some of the shell. And, hoof prints leave holes where grass seed can fall and be sheltered long enough to sprout and survive. This was always a common practice, using livestock to reseed. Grass can be broadcast into the pasture where cattle are grazing.
    Meanwhile, at dawn, it’s cold enough away north of Tucson I don’t know if we should be singing here comes santy claus or blue hawaii. Nah, we’ll stick to home. Why leave paradise for a swamp? 🙂

  3. Curt Gesch says:

    My experience is with red clover. I always let a paddock or part of a field go to see after one or two earlier grazings. Then, when the seed is mature, the cows go in for a quite bit to eat. Whether the clover reseeds by being trampled, just falling to the ground naturally, or passing through cows is unclear, but well. Taking two hay cuttings would mean the clover would soon disappear in our area where there would not be time for it to reseed.

    This fall I put the cows on a good grassy part of a hayfield, but first I topseeded with trefoil and red clover and then turned the cows in to trample the seed into the soil; probably some gets passed through the digestive system, too. We’ll see late next summer how well the red clover establishes and the following year the trefoil, a slow starter.

  4. Richard says:

    Kathy, Thanks for the questions raised in these examples.
    Paige Kennedy Smart completed a masters thesis at NCSU, directed by Matt Poore. Answering some of these questions, specifically for red clover (coated or not), fed or frost-seeded into fescue pastures in NC.


    Are you aware of research or informal experiments on which noxious weed seeds are most effectively spread by cattle?
    Which cool season, desired grasses are effectively spread by grazing seedheads?

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