This is my 9th summer teaching cows to eat weeds and working with farmers and ranchers to help them educate their livestock. More and more folks are getting on the band wagon, and I’ve learned more and more about weeds as well. So here’s a list of the weeds I think you should be taking advantage of in your pasture. It’s a semi-alphabetical list by common name. If you have questions or need the latin names, let me know.
Weeds I’ve had analyzed that with 15% or more protein:
Russian Knapweed (has even been used as an alfalfa alternative!)
What I’ve learned is that when it comes to weedy forms, “If it’s green and growing, it’s nutritious.” So though I haven’t tested these weeds, cattle have eaten them quite well:
Blackberry and Rubus species
Curly Cup Gumweed
Hoary cress/white top
Multiflora rose – a fellow in West V irginia just taught his cows to eat this and they’re doing well!
Russian thistle – Boulder County cows LOVE this and I didn’t even have to teach them to eat it.
White top/Hoary cress
Yucca (leaves and blossoms)
Here are some plants I’ve checked on that cows could eat, but that I haven’t had experience training them to eat:
Sericea lespedeza – I’ve been talking to folks at K-State periodically, but they haven’t pulled the trigger on a project so far
Lots of folks want to know about these weeds:
Buttercup – a West Virginia dairy farmer told me that his cattle began eating this on their own, and that his milk production went up without any change in flavor when the cows began eating weeds. There are varieties of buttercup that are harmful to sheep, so let’s talk before you decide to teach animals to eat this plant.
Wild Iris -What I read in the books and what I hear happening on the ground don’t match up. I rancher in Nevada who trained her cattle to eat leafy spurge reported back that it seemed they had decided to eat the wild iris. Again, we should talk before you do something with this plant.