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Cattle Eat Thistle

mnmtranching

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This probably isn't proof enough for the doubters.
During the last couple dry Summers many of my cows learned to eat thistle.
This year, even with good grass they are still at it. I see it almost daily.


 

cypressfarms

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I'm guessing that this is a learned behavior? I wish mine would eat thistle, in the spring there's a huge buffet of it.
 

SRBeef

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Thanks for the pictures.

I have seen cattle eat thistle when it is very small. I have never seen them eat it when it is as large as your pictures show. I do still question whether at the stage shown they will eat enough of it fast enough to keep it from going to seed. After that you won't have much in that pasture except thistle.

The only thing I've seen really eat thistle that tall is a mower which is what I would run in that pasture ASAP. jmho.

Jim
 

mnmtranching

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No it still goes to seed, lots of it. Then in Sept we have Gold Finches by the thousands.
Noxious weeds are the biggest threat to range land. Thistles are bad but not as bad as Spotted Knappweed. Knappweed has a natural herbicide in it's root system that kills other vegetation. And I have not seen cattle eat knappweed.
I have no problems with the thistle in the open areas or cropland that can be mechanically sprayed. My 1200 plus acres of pastureland consists of about 1/3 woodland, low wet areas, ponds and old farm sites with footings, holes old fences etc. I have spent a good bit of time hand spraying, and still do. I've lost the battle.
Oh I'm not the only one, thistles are everywhere and every pasture has them.
We did not have a thistle problem here until the dry years started. Most of the producers both dairy and beef brought in hay from North Dakota. This brought in the thistle and knappweed. That and the seeding along new highway construction. The seed used by county and state highway departments was infested with noxious weeds.
Be careful where you buy hay.
 

SRBeef

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Is this the same cow that made the run through the half-open gate on your other thread??? Looks similar. Maybe she doesn't like grazing thistle as much as it seems? I would question trying to rely on thistle as sufficient diet for beef cattle. Good luck. Jim
 

lakeportfarms

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I've heard that you can encourage livestock to eat certain plants such as thistle by spraying them with molasses. After some period of time you can reduce and then eliminate the molasses and they will continue to eat it. To this day I still hate macaroni and cheese after smelling the nasty stuff my elementary school served at lunch many years ago. I guess spraying molasses works on the same principle in reverse.
 

grubbie

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Never would have believed it.....thanks for the pics.
 

Workinonit Farm

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In times of drought, I've seen some of mine eat small amounts of it, but not in large quantities. My goats eat it some, but the hogs just love the stuff! The more I cut and/or dig up the more they eat it.

Katherine
 

HOSS

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My cows love to eat the thistle heads. They will line up along the fence and eat the purple heads off of the thistle tops. It must be a delicacy for then.
 

cypressfarms

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My Arabian horses will kick it with their hoof to knock it down, and then eat the inside part near the ground. I wonder if thistles have any nutritional value, or if they are just predominately water. I've eaten as a kid and it tastes like celery.
 

hrbelgians

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HOSS":3g611b8q said:
My cows love to eat the thistle heads. They will line up along the fence and eat the purple heads off of the thistle tops. It must be a delicacy for then.


I have the same thing. My cows will clean a canandian thistle patch from the top clear down to a stubble. Its interesting to watch as even the calves will eat them by the time they are a few weeks old. Also will clean up any burdock and horse weed the can get a hold of, as a matter of fact this is the first thing the calves go for!! It is however a little bit of monkey see monkey do type of thing I believe?? I have a bull and about 3 cows that will eat everything in sight and it seems as every year the weed eating group gets bigger and bigger, just my observation.
I have wanted to get a tissue test of them as they must have a nutritional value, but haven't got around to it!
 

mnmtranching

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SRBeef":3dbkgn4d said:
Is this the same cow that made the run through the half-open gate on your other thread??? Looks similar. Maybe she doesn't like grazing thistle as much as it seems? I would question trying to rely on thistle as sufficient diet for beef cattle. Good luck. Jim

No, this is a different pasture and a well behaved cow.
I have found out the best way to graze thistle is to graze very hard when the plants are in the small tender stage. Spring, the cows are hungry for green and will work at chewing the plant down to the ground level. Really sets plants back and lets the grass get a jump on it.
When the thistle is in bloom the calves learn quickly to eat the blooms along with the cows.

In reading journals and history of homesteaders. This was in the Northern plains. During some of the dry years thistle was harvested. Many a head of cattle were roughed through the Winter on Thistle.
 

Susie David

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This old gal taught all her calves and the rest how to eat Canada Thissle. Cut a stand yesterday and she was eating the buds.
You better get your stand knocked down before it blooms and reseeds itself again.
DMc
 

Stocker Steve

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mnmtranching":vgu5zksy said:
I have found out the best way to graze thistle is to graze very hard when the plants are in the small tender stage. Spring, the cows are hungry for green and will work at chewing the plant down to the ground level. Really sets plants back and lets the grass get a jump on it.

I have a neighbor who will not spray and will not cut on time. This spring I rented his "hay" field for one week, turned in cows for their first pasture of the year, and took the thistle down to the dirt. Some thistle is coming back but the stand is now mostly red clover. It is amazing what is in the seed bank.
 
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