Session helps ranchers teach a cow new tricks

Bored, nothing to do?

Bored, nothing to do?

Learn something new; it’s amazing how many opportunities exist for those who are willing to look around and to step outside their comfort zone.

Yesterday, I went to weed-eating school, as did quite a number of other Cariboo ranchers and government employees.

At a day-long session hosted by the Cariboo-Chilcotin-Coast Invasive Plant Committee we learned how “educated cows eat weeds.”

It was the tantalizing promise that you could train your own cows to do that which had drawn in the large crowd as the thought of cows actually choosing to eat weeds seemed like a pipe dream!

As an industry we spend more than we can afford trying to control (or eradicate) weeds (particularly invasive and noxious weed species). So, my goodness — if we could get the cows to eat all those nasty weeds, wouldn’t that be grand? Think of the time, effort and cash that would save! Immediately we all began to hope that our cows were smart enough to learn new eating habits.

The featured speaker, Kathy Voth, came all the way from Loveland, Colo. to assure us that it can be done with a little bit of time, patience and effort (approximately 10 hours over a period of 10 days) and to illustrate how to ensure that our cows would soon be munching (happily) on Spotted Knapweed, Canada Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, Leafy Spurge and the like.

Voth, in fact, doesn’t call them weeds or invasive plants — it’s all forage to her. As an added bonus, most weeds are noticeably higher in protein than range-grass.

Voth says that your original group of trained cows (12 or more, 50 are ideal) will then teach other cows in your herd to eat weeds that you introduced them to. To get the information to activate your cow-weed-eaters visit