Cows Eat Weeds

CowsEatWeedscoverKathy Voth is a 12-year veteran of the Bureau of Land Management who has spent the past decade perfecting a method for training cattle to eat weeds. Her process allows grazers to train cows to eat target plants in as little time as 10 hours over 10 days, and may eliminate the need to spray toxins to control weeds in your pastures. Kathy’s process originated out of university research into using goats and sheep to control weeds. If they could do it, why not cows? She believes animals are a good solution for weed management, and offers these four simple steps to training cows or other grazers to eat weeds.

  1. Know your plant. Begin by finding out about the nutritional value and the toxins in your target plant. Many weeds are very nutritious, but like all plants they contain toxins. Prevent illness by knowing your toxins.
  2. Choose the right animals to train. Young animals are more likely to try new things, females stay in the herd longer and teach their offspring. Train only as many as you can handle. They will teach everyone else for you.
  3. Reduce the fear of new foods. Setting up a daily routine of feeding animals something nutritious but unfamiliar gives them positive experiences with new foods and makes them comfortable trying new foods. Feed them something new twice a day for four days. When you introduce your target weed on the fifth day, they'll eat it because it's just one more new thing in their routine of new things.
  4. Practice in pasture. Each new plant requires that your animal learn a new grazing technique. Give them a day or two to practice in small "classroom" size pastures. Then when you send them out in the world, they'll have the skills they need.

You can learn more about Kathy’s research, method, and other projects including prescribed goat grazing, at her website <click here>. Livestock for Landscapes is based in Loveland, CO. Kathy also has started a free online grazing magazine called On Pasture <click here>.

Below is a light-hearted but informative video called Cows Eat Weeds IntroductionAdditionally, Kathy has produced another video called The Economics of Teaching Cows to Eat Weeds <click here or on the title to view>.