Research | Teaching Cattle to Eat Leafy Spurge |

Teaching Cattle to Eat Leafy Spurge

At this First Street Pasture, MBFI is researching how to teach cattle to eat leafy spurge. This page provides information about this particular research project; including the background, objectives, and updates.

  • Project Lead: Jane Thornton, Farm Production Extension - Forage (Manitoba Agriculture), Send email
  • Project Start: June 2016
  • Project Status: In Progress
  • Location: First Street Pasture



Leafy spurge (LS) infests at least 1.2 million acres in Manitoba and has direct cost to the livestock industry of $10.2 million based on lost grazing capacity (Economic Impact of Leafy Spurge in Southern Manitoba – Final Report, June 2010) . Cattle show an aversion to eating Leafy Spurge but work done by Kathy Voth ( has shown that cattle can be trained to eat leafy spurge as well as many other weeds. This project will test whether this training method is possible and effective.


  1. Train beef cattle to eat Leafy Spurge. It is estimated that Leafy Spurge could make up about 5% of the cow's diet.
  2. Determine if cattle will eat Leafy Spurge and if the low consumption will be enough to reduce infestation levels.


As of March 2017-The leafy spurge training program on the 1 st Street Pasture uses Kathy Voth’s training program to teach cattle to eat weeds. The training program takes seven days and finishes with the herd mob grazing a small paddock with both forage and leafy spurge for a short period of time.

In 2016, 50 heifers and 5 cow/calf were trained to eat leafy spurge. During the training process many of the cattle made a good effort to try and eat the spurge. Cattle were then rotated through their paddocks over the summer and staff documented how many leafy spurge stems appeared to have been eaten. The sampling showed that the cattle were eating about 7% of the spurge stems available to them.

In 2017 twenty five new replacement heifers will be added to the herd. These heifers will undergo the training process in mid June. The herd will be followed the rest of the grazing season and documentation will be made of the amount of leafy spurge consumed by the cattle.

Photo Gallery

Select any image below to view enlargement and/or play slideshow:

Gallery: One of the heifers trys the leafy spurge mixture (June 2016) class= Gallery: The beginning stages of the heifers being trained to eat leafy spurge (June 2016) class= Gallery: Buckets are used to introduce the cattle to eating leafy spurge. The whole training process takes just over a week. (June 2016) class= Gallery: Training cattle to eat leafy spurge class=

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