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!

Training Cows and Bison to Eat Canada Thistle and Spotted Knapweed

We trained 320 cows at 5 different ranches and 38 bison at another in the Madison and Ruby Valleys in Montana in a project sponsored by the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group's Weed Committee the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

This project included a number of "Firsts:"

First #1 - Ranchers started the training on their own based on instructions I sent them.  This gave ranchers hands-on understanding of how their animals learn.  I arrived to help with the trickier introduction to weeds and in-pasture training.

First #2 - At the Woodson Ranch, 8 trained heifers showed 20 untrained cow calf pairs how to eat Canada thistle in just 30 days.  We always knew cows could teach each other, but we didn't know how fast it happened!

First #3 - We trained 38 bison at Ted Turner's Snowcrest Ranch, demonstrating that the behavior principles the steps are based on are truly universal.  We found that they continued to eat the plant even as it got older.  They focused on buds and blossoms, typical for animals just learning a new weed.  With continued practice they eat more and more of the weed.

First #4 - Yes, you CAN train large numbers! At the Jumping Horse Ranch we used a cake feeder and taught 110 pairs. In their latest pasture they grazed thistle to the same height as the grass. The hardest part of training this many animals is gathering enough weeds for the training portion. I highly recommend hiring the same kinds of enthusiastic 10 - 16 year olds who helped us!

The ranchers share their perspectives on the training in our new DVD.

See the music video!

This was easy! This was fun!

Brett Owens, Owens Ranch
McAllister, MT

Brett Owens
Bison takes a bite of Canada thistle bison bites weed

If you look from the road, you might miss all the progress your trainees are making.  Take pasture walks and look for tops that have been bitten off, or plants grazed even with the grass.
Bison bitten weed

Madison County, Montana 2008 and 2009

Funded by the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group Weed Committee and the NRCS
Ah Ha! Moments

Special thanks to
Melissa Griffiths, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group Weed Committee
Marni Thompson and Trisha Craycroft of the NRCS
The Owens Family
Kyle Nelson and Wes, Jumping Horse Ranch
Steve and Jen Woods, Horse Creek Hay and Cattle
Jan Kluver, Ranchland Resources working with the Woodson and Morse Ranches
Dave Dixon, Bill and Kyle at the Snowcrest Ranch
Jory, Erica, Madison and Jayce Thompson
Maddie and Tim Griffiths
Peter Williams