This January I attended a conference with the keynote speaker discussing her research and subsequent methodology to teach cattle to eat weeds. Her processes are very regimented, and have shown effective, however it requires multiple “tasty” food sources to train the cattle prior to introducing the weeds as edible, available food source.
I have taken her ideas and am attempting to change them to a forage only model for implementation on our grass-fed beef farm. We hand feed alfalfa, clover, or other grass forages to the cattle for a few days. I then added some thistles to the hand fed clover/alfalfa.
Last night I had the break through with one of my cattle family units. I was walking with the family and found a 6 year-old cow and 2 year-old steer grazing on thistles in the field. Realize, I am not starving the mob, in fact the mob is moving every 2 days trying to keep up with the 3′ deep forage sward. At first I didn’t believe it, but when they came over to the fence for the informal hand feeding, I was able to feed 4 or 5 of the cattle thistle alone.
I don’t think this will eliminate my thistle issues, but hopefully they will start to help me keep my thistle issues under control.