Cattle, General Pasture

How to train Cattle to eat weeds in 5 days

I know, I had a hard time believing it too when I came across this article. Folks in the Montana Farmers Union received grant money for the project and achieved success doing exactly what the title states. The test cattle even were trained to consume thistle which controlling my invasive bull thistle was the internet search that brought me to this article in the first place.

Basically, it works in the same manner as the strategy I will use to control the established tree of heaven stands: cull any growth before it reaches seed at maturity until the roots run out of energy. The training program teaches cows to chew different textures and to chew more thoroughly allowing them to widen their palettes.

Tools required:

Feed trough

Cattle

Feeds:

  • Pelleted Alfalfa
  • Rolled Corn, Rolled Barley, Rolled Oats mixed together (aka COB)
  • Molasses
  • Rolled Barley (alone)
  • Pelleted Sugarbeets
  • Flaked Soybean
  • Wheat Bran
  • Hay cubes
  • Chopped weeds which the training targets

Procedure:

Simply follow the feeding schedule provided by the linked article:

Feeding schedule

Day 1: morning – alfalfa pellets; afternoon – half alfalfa pellets, half cob.

Day 2: morning – cob mixed with molasses; afternoon – rolled barley.

Day 3: morning – sugarbeet pellets; afternoon – soybean flake.

Day 4: morning – wheat bran; afternoon – hay cubes.

Day 5: morning – hay mixed with target weeds and sprayed with molasses water; afternoon – target weeds.

 

After the 5 day training program, the cattle can harvest the high protein thistle (nutritionally equivalent to alfalfa) as well as help control the invasive nature of the plant. Untrained cattle have been observed to have learned from their trained herd-mates. The article I linked stated that the Montana Farmers Union would update its website on the progress of the program, but all I found was an announcement of the pilot program from 2011.

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Side Projects

Revisiting Bamboo as Fodder: Non-Invasive Genus Fargesia

After reading my post expressing my desire to experiment with growing bamboo for fodder, a friend of mine suggested I look into the Fargesia genus of bamboo. He sent me this article titled Non-Invasive, Cold-Hardy Clumping Bamboos/ The genus : Fargesia.

As explained in the linked article the Fargesia genus of bamboo is cold hardy but more importantly the root characteristics are non-invasive. The difference lies in the fact that the roots are clumping instead of running much like the perennial bunching onions mentioned previously. Pachymorph describes this nature of the roots opposed to leptomorph which describes the running rhizomes of invasive bamboo species. The latter is an organism much like turf grasses which both homeowners and gardeners know can be a pain to contain!

Phenomenons occur with bamboo that are still not well understood by man. Bamboo will flower, create new hybrid seeds from the flower pollination then typically die. This makes preserving the parent specimen difficult unless it is clonally propagated before its death. However the result is many new varieties of bamboo from the hybrid seeds. This monocarpic reproduction resulted in the death of the entire population of cultivated Fargesia in the 1990’s but resulted in offspring that vary wildly in characteristics.

Species Selection:

Also pulled from the linked article is a breakdown of the different species and their characteristics that I have condensed. All included species should do well in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia’s USDA hardiness zone of 6-b.

Fargesia denudata:

Arching habit [Green house or garden hoop row construction candidate]

Tolerates not only the frozen winters but heat and humidity

It can reach a height of 15 feet, but normally 10 ft

USDA cold hardiness zone 5-9.

Fargesia robusta ‘Pingwu’ Green Screen™

Very upright

Holds up well in the heat and humidity of the Southeastern U. S., unlike other Fargesia types

Maximum height is 18 ft.

USDA cold hardiness zone 6-9

Fargesia rufa ‘Oprins Selection’ Green Panda™

Extremely cold hardy and heat tolerant

It grows into a large clump (6-8 ft wide)

Arching stems

Maximum height is 10 ft. maximum and culm diameter is 0.5 inches.

USDA hardiness zone 5-9

Grows well in shade as well as full sun

Fargesia scabrida ‘Oprins Selection’ Asian Wonder™

Very narrow leaves and a graceful appearance

Stems show great color, with orange culm sheaths and steely-blue new culms (stems). Culms mature to olive green.

Maximum height is approximately 16 ft

USDA zone 5-8

Prefers sun to partial shade

Again, all credit for the information in this post is retrieved from here and due to:

Susanne Lucas, Horticulturist

Pioneer Plants, LLC. http://www.BambooSelect.us

9 Bloody Pond Road, Plymouth, MA 02360 USA susannelucas@gmail.com

[Note, I think her address is badass!]

I don’t really have a preference for species. For fodder any of the plants will provide the goats and other animals with the fun of browsing vegetation 10 feet tall. For building materials it would seem that the tallest species at maturity are the best choice. I am going to find what is available locally or by mail order, then make my decision.

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