Thursday, July 18, 2024
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FAQs on Teaching Livestock to Eat Weeds

You’ve got questions and I’ve got answers.

This week I’m continuing my quest to make myself obsolete by sharing more information on my method for teaching livestock to eat weeds. My dream is that teaching livestock to eat weeds will become such a common practice that my name as the developer of the technique will be forgotten. I’m waiting to pop the champagne cork to celebrate that event, something I had hoped would happen in 2024. I may not make it by 2024, but maybe it can still happen. So read on for answers to questions I’ve been asked about the particulars of livestock as weed-eaters.

(And if you missed them, here is the first article collection in the series covering examples of weeds that make great forage and why we should graze them, and here is the second collection on the science behind why this works.)

How Much More Forage Will I Have If My Livestock Are Weed-Eaters?

For the answer to this question, I worked with a economist who looked at the literature on how may weeds the typical pasture has, and what that meant when converted into usable forage. The answer: 43% more forage.

When Your Livestock Graze Weeds You’ll Have 43% More Forage

Another answer: 200,000 more cows a year in a 17-state region.

In 2010, a rangeland ecologist working for the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) developed an online calculator that could tell producers how many more cattle they could raise if they were able to eliminate one or two widespread invasive plants. He used it to estimate that ranchers in a 17-state region could raise 200,000 more cows a year and save tens of millions of dollars if leafy spurge were eliminated. Check out what he learned and how we can help him accomplish that dream – by teaching livestock to eat those weeds.

What Should I Do About My Pasture Weeds?

Will my livestock gain as much weight eating weeds?

Yes, and maybe even more. This article talks about the nutritional value of weeds and why they’re good for weight gain.

Eat Your Weeds! They’re Often More Nutritious Than Grasses

How Should I Graze to Best Manage Weeds?

You need to know some things about your weed so you can choose the right timing and grazing intensity. In general, since they come up earlier than many of our “preferred” forages, hitting them early can slow them down and give your grasses and other forages a competitive advantage. Another great time to hit them is just as they’re beginning to flower. This reduces seed set and how many weeds you’ll have to manage in coming years.

Here’s a free ebook I put together on how to manage grazing for three weeds: Canada thistle, leafy spurge, and spotted knapweed. Even if these aren’t your weeds, it will give you an example of what you need to know and how to adjust your grazing.

Managing Livestock to Meet Weed Management Goals – Free Download

(And, if you haven’t yet visited the Ebook Resources page, take a minute to check out other ebooks you can download. Many of them are FREE!)

Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Questions

Check out this article for answers to these questions:

Do I have to train my whole herd?
Can I just spray molasses on my weeds to get animals to eat them?
Don’t the spines and prickles on the plant hurt animals?
If the plants have toxins, won’t animals be poisoned?
Does weed eating affect the meat or milk?
Will weed-eating animals spread weeds?
Can livestock eradicate weeds?
Is Kathy a Kook?

Is Kathy a Kook and Other FAQs About Teaching Livestock to Eat Weeds

And here’s a funny for you!

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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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