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.
- Pelleted Alfalfa
- Rolled Corn, Rolled Barley, Rolled Oats mixed together (aka COB)
- Rolled Barley (alone)
- Pelleted Sugarbeets
- Flaked Soybean
- Wheat Bran
- Hay cubes
- Chopped weeds which the training targets
Simply follow the feeding schedule provided by the linked article:
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.