Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do Cattle Eat Leaves?

I was talking with a gentleman today about trees and their value as a forage. It is true and a little know fact that the green leaves of trees supply many trace minerals and nutrients that ruminants need. Trees have the ability to take minute traces of minerals and nutrients and combine them into very nutritious leaves and wood. They are capable of this action even in very poor, nutrient deficient soil.

I have noticed that my cows will reach up as far as they can to get those juicy oak leaves. I was told, once, that that is bad for them, that the leaves are toxic. I believe that animals know what they need and when they need it, and they aren't dead or sick yet.

This gentleman told me of a friend of his that, one year, fought the sprouting persimmon trees that had inundated a 10 acre pasture. He even went to the point of pulling out the disk plow and plowing them all under, only to watch them pop back up in a matter of weeks. I will vouch for the fact that persimmon are near impossible to get rid of, I have plenty of them. In fact, they are quite the nuisance.

After all his efforts failed, he then purchased $600.00 worth of chemical herbicides. He then sprayed the field. The results are unknown to me as we never got that far in our conversation. However, our talk helped me make a decision about what to do with the persimmon problem on our place.

Last year, I had our Dexter bull in the paddock that supplies us with the nasty trees. I had noticed that he had eaten all the leaves off the persimmon trees and when those were all gone, he ate the stem itself-end of problem.

This year I have our mini Hereford bull over there and he isn't touching them. Maybe he's not hungry enough, yet, I don't know. Thus, the problem. Honestly, the only thing you can do with these trees is control them, you can't get rid of them.

So here is what I will do to control the persimmon trees, put the Dexter bull back over there and let him eat them. Sure, I could go in there and work my tail off to try to remove them, like the aforementioned fellow. Or, as I have said in the past on this blog, I can let the animals do the work for me. I vote for the latter. I have plenty to occupy my time without adding persimmon eradication into the mix.

In fact, that would be my solution for the farmer who spent $600 on killing the trees. Mob graze the 10 acres, fenced off in tight paddocks, and let the cattle eat the leaves. If nothing else, without the leaves, they will die. But that's me. I don't believe in the modern way of farming in which we spend our way into astronomical debt and sweat when cattle prices fall.

The ideal is to have, or work toward, a least cost operation. The less you spend, the more you make. So, let the cattle eat those leaves, they'll thank you for it.

1 comment:

mullikencc at yahoo dt c om said...

thanks, remember reading in my Jim Corbett books about the hill people of India going out to cut oak leaves each day for their cattle or to sell at market so others could buy them for their own animals. This summer I will rotate our guernsey and brown swiss in to the forest a few days each week so they can get some natural browse and perhaps then they won't rely so heavily on the trace mineral and kelp to get their minerals!

I appreciate the write up!