Weed Seeds and Feed | Living the Country Life
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Weed Seeds and Feed

Your livestock could unknowingly be planting weeds in the pasture

Cattle, sheep and goat producers need to be on the lookout to make sure Palmer amaranth, leafy spurge and other invasive weed seeds don’t sneak in with grain screenings or dockage used as feed.

When the whole seed is consumed, the hard, outside seed coat can protect the seed from being digested. The seed stays viable and passes out in the manure. As an animal grazes and drops manure, all parts of the pasture could be seeded with weeds. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture determined that Palmer amaranth found its way into a soybean field through cattle manure.

Karl Hoppe is a livestock beef cattle specialist at North Dakota State University. He says the best way to know if there are weed seeds in your feed is to personally look for them.

"Some things are quite obvious like thistle seeds, cockleburs are pretty obvious. Small fine-grain seeds like pigeon grass seeds, which some people call foxtail are really small, but they are identifiable. Things like palmer amaranth need to be looked at closely too, to make sure they’re either included or not," says Hoppe. "If you don’t know, air on the side of caution. That would be to hammermill or finely grind all the screenings that you receive to get rid of weed seeds."

There is another option to prevent weed seeds from germinating.

"Feed the feeds in a feed yard, and then be very diligent in how we feed and compost the manure," he says. "And if the manure is composted correctly, it’s heated and that should make inviable or kill the germination of most weed seeds."

Hay and other forages might also have weed seeds if the weeds were cut when mature. Hoppe recommends avoiding hay and feed from areas where there are known infestations of invasive weeds.

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