Livestock for Landscapes Header
Share |
Menu Bar Home about Contact Store Blog Newsletter Speaker Requests Cows Eat Weeks Prescribed Goat Grazing

Copyright 2010, Kathy Voth, Livestock for Landscapes, All rights reserved
Reprint Permissions Information

Weed eating benefits
What's Edible?
How to get started
What people are saying
Meet the inventor


Cow Pointer

Educated Cows Eat Weeds!

Cows Eat Problem Brush


Cows are grazers, goats are browsers, right? Not if you've been paying attention.

Cows that I've trained to eat weeds have also eaten a lot of brush: Coyote brush in California, Willows, wild rose, squaw bush and ash in Montana. I attribute this to the training broadening their idea of what forage is. Other folks share with me that their cattle eat blackberry, and multiflora rose.

With all this evidence that cows are much more than grazers, I started looking into nutritional values for the brush species that bug us most - those things we think of as weeds that "ruin" our pastures. Turns out they're nutritious!

Researchers in Wisconsin came up with this idea back in 2001. Their 2-year experiment found that cattle grazing could be used to "open up" and restore overgrown oak savannah. They used 6 cow calf pairs in June, July and August in two treatments: 1) one day per acre per month, and 2) three days per acre per month. The cattle spent 34% of their time grazing brush, 35% grazing forbs, and 29% grazing grass. A photo comparison of the control pasture and a grazed pasture showed that the brush layer had been practically eliminated after the second year. They found that using 5,000 to 7,000 pounds of cattle per acre provided for reasonable weight gain and shrub removal. You can read more at:

If you're doing a lot of work to save your farm from brush and replace it with grass so your cows can eat it, maybe you could look at it from another perspective. We can make lemonade out of lemons, why not pasture out of brush? After all, the definition of pasture is: "Grass or other vegetation eaten as food by grazing animals."

Brush is Nutritious and Resilient!

It leafs out and grows even in drought, it's seeds can remain viable in the ground for as much as 20 years, and 1 acre of "thicket" can offset carbon from a car driving 26,000 miles in a year.
Protein Levels for a few brush species:
Rubus spp (blackberry, etc.) - 15-21%
Russian Olive - 14%
Multiflora Rose - 11%

Cow eats brush
I found that cows in Marin grazed Coyote bush every bit as well as my goat herd would have done. Their big bodies mean they eat even more, and often break branches and push brush down in ways goats would never be able to
Grazed Brush
Wisconsin cattle-grazed trial pasture next to ungrazed area.

Food For Thought

Check out Kathy's Column: Overcoming our Prejudice Against Brush