Cows Eat Leafy Spurge

By Beth Burritt

Think cows won’t eat leafy spurge? Don’t tell that to the cows on the Rex Ranch in Nebraska. One year, employees marked spurge for spraying. They were going to spray it as soon as the cows moved to a new pasture. But when they went back to spray, the spurge was gone. It was grazed right down to the ground.

The ranch uses high-intensity short duration grazing forcing cattle to eat plants they wouldn’t normally eat. Ranch manager John Young says he believes their cows learned to eat spurge because spurge encroachment is fairly minimal on the ranch. It grows in patches rather than as monocultures over large areas of land. Cows can mix spurge with other forages rather than eating only spurge.

Spurge infestation may never be a problem on the ranch because once cows learn how to eat spurge, they teach their calves to eat it too.