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To add your comments to this topic, click on one of the 'Reply' links below.

Need advice on first hay crop and fighting Knapweed
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Honeybee    Posted 04-17-2003 at 16:20:52       [Reply]  [Send Email]

I enjoying reading here but am a first time poster :-) ... I was hoping someone here might have some advice for a first time hay grower or maybe could recommend a good website.

We've got the soil tested, fertilizer ordered, and now have to pick our seed.

We're at 3000' elevation in Eastern Washington, supposedly the pasture is subirrigated but it can be dry here.

We'll be feeding horses and goats with this hay.

The hardest part is we're fighting knapweed. We were thinking an alfalfa grass mix (?) but what types of grasses? Something better to start with? Anything that will choke out or discourage the knapweed?

We're really new at this and any advice is welcome.

Thanks for looking

Honeybee    Posted 04-21-2003 at 09:12:26       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks to all for the great advice. There sure is a lot more to it than meets the eye :-)

I was glad to hear that timothy will grow up this high. (We're about 70 miles north of Spokane.) We'll be planting a lightly treed grazing pasture next year so I guess we'll be working at this for a while.

I'd rather not spray if we don't have too and since we've already got goats I think we're going to give them a chance at the knapweed.

I found a good link about companion grazing and weed control if anyone is interested, I'll try to link it to this post.

Hope your all enjoying a beautiful spring.

Thanks and God bless

Hal/WA    Posted 04-21-2003 at 22:00:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
Knapweed seems to be somewhat of a perrenial. My Dad had an area of infestation in one of his alfalfa hayfields, and he didn't want to spray and kill the alfalfa. We tried to control it by pulling the plants as they began to flower with limited success. There were still some plants there when we sold the property.

Goats might eat knapweed. My experience with goats is limited. But one of my friends growing up had a bunch of goats. I remember that it was nearly impossible to keep them penned up and I helped round them up several times. If there is no problem with predators (including loose dogs), I think I would try staking a goat on a chain, to see if it would eat down all the vegetation.

There must be something in knapweed that is harmful or tastes bad, since cattle will absolutely not touch it if there is anything else, including pine needles to eat. You might want to check with people who really know goats to see if knapweed might be harmful to them, or if it will taint milk. Another plant that nothing eats is Dalmatium Toadflax, which looks like yellow snapdragons. I have found it much harder to control than knapweed. Spraying does little good. I have killed some large clump colonies with rock salt, but nothing will grow there for a long time. Another real bad one is skeleton weed, which looks like a many branched green plant with no leaves on the branches. Its roots go extremely deep and pulling does little good except for destroying seeds. I have a little area with this weed and have used Roundup on that area and followed up with 2,4D. It continues to come up every year. There are about 4 kinds of thistles in this area and you will want to be able to recognize them and do something about them. At least some animals will eat parts of thistles.

Dealing with a small infestation of noxious weeds is really worth your time. Unfortunately in many places it is too late and the weeds have completely taken over pasture lands. If there is knapweed all around your place, in my opinion spraying is the only way to control it. It is too bad that knapweed has been allowed to spread over so much of the West. Ever been to Missoula in the late summer? The purple color of the mountains surrounding Missoula comes from knapweed in bloom, about the only thing that now grows there.

Good luck with the goats, but please consider pulling plants before they go to seed and also spot spraying. It is really worth the time and effort. Hal/WA

Chuck, WA    Posted 04-21-2003 at 08:37:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
Honeybee...Like Hal, I live in eastern WA, down near TriCities - not near your elevation, but also irrigated.

Somebody mentioned a Hay FAQ - here are links to two of them that might be useful:

I restored a small (2A) field last fall in pasture grass with the intent that I would harvest it this year for grass hay. I don't have horses, but nearby friends do and would like any grass hay I can harvest. I'm a beginner at this also, and was shocked by the amount of cheat grass in it this year. There are also other weeds, but I don't recall seeing much knapweed.

My extension agent, like many others, says that the best solution is to get a good turf established by keeping it fertilized and mowed and let the grass crowd out the weeds. That's what I'm trying to do, so no hay this year I guess, but we'll see what it looks like as the year progresses.

Linda    Posted 04-18-2003 at 23:21:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
I did a quick Google search for "knapweed goats" and came up with several articles on the subject in the western states. I'll post those links below.

The young woman I learned about this from had a business that consisted of herself, a large herd of goats, and her herd dogs. She would run this business in the summer, mostly in Colorado and Wyoming, and then spend the fall guiding for hunts.

She was college educated, very knowledgeable, and was in the process of formulating plans to help her business grow when she was critically injured in a farm accident. I don't know if she was able to return to her business or not. I hope so.

However, she and I had several conversations regarding the details of her business and the success of her methods. I believed her when she told me they were having very good success rates and were making a tremendous dent in the knapweed and spurge populations. I believe she said they calculated it would take a minimum of 5 years of intensive, carefully timed grazing to get rid of the weed. This was a few years ago, but it looks like the idea is still being pursued.

Hal/WA    Posted 04-18-2003 at 22:34:46       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hey, where are you located? I live SE of Spokane, close to Idaho.

Unfortunately knapweed was allowed to get a good start in Eastern Washington and now it is a real pest. I have fought it for years. Very few plants have ever gone to seed on my property, but my neighbors have not been so diligent. When one neighbor put in a road, a lot of fill was brought in, with lots of seeds. Since this road borders one whole side of my property, I have received their permission to spray their property along that road.

I do spot spraying with a strong solution of 2,4D mixed with some diswashing detergent, to get it to stick better. The best time to spray knapweed is when it is well up, but not blooming. It also is a good idea to plan your spraying for a time when it will not rain for a couple of days. This will knock down the knapweed and sometimes kill it. I usually go back over the area a couple of weeks later as I always seem to miss some plants. I have tried some other herbicides, but 2,4D is cheaper and seems to do about as well. It has been available at Big R in about 2 gallon containers and has not required an applicator's license to purchase. I mix a little stronger than the directions suggest, but don't go overboard.

Of course 2,4D will kill alfalfa or any broadleaf crop. It also may leave a residue that will not let alfalfa do well for a couple of years. But 2,4D will not do anything to grass. The experts told me that getting a good stand of grass going was the best way to control knapweed. You also should be concerned with the possibility of damage to neighbors plants when you spray any herbicide. You don't want to use Roundup on knapweed unless you want to kill everything, including the grasses. Then the knapweed seeds in the soil will have less competition when they sprout.

I would suggest talking to the County Agricultural Agent about what to do with knapweed in hay. To my knowledge, nothing will eat it, and I sure would not want to have any mature knapweed in my hay. Tillage will deal with existing plants, but more will come, if your property has been infested with plants that went to seed. If you till every year, knapweed will not be much bother, as it is a biennial (2 year maturing plant), but that would not be practical for a hayfield.

I bet I have pulled and burned 10 tons of knapweed plants over the years. With some spraying and pulling, most of my property no longer has much problem. The neighbors' property is another story. I don't really have a good solution for that. Good luck, neighbor!

Tom A    Posted 04-18-2003 at 07:00:14       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hi Honeybee:

A few years back I downloaded a very good FAQ for first time hayers. I can't find the website anymore so it may be defunct, but if you want, I can email it to you as a MS Word document. Just let me know.

I don't have horses, but I do have goats, a mule, and a donkey along with other critters.

The only weeds my own goats won't eat are thistle and millain, but we don't have any knoapweed around here that I know of. Other than those two, weeds and brush are all just delicacies to the goats. I've found that they'll just keep eating away at it and within about 2 years it just quits growing back.

Hay is very much a regional thing. Things that grow great here may not even germinate where you are. I'd suggest talking to locals, and your feed store and the extension agent to find out what mix(es) grow best where you are.

One thing to watch out for, though, is feeding the goats "too rich." Alfalfa isn't all that good for them as it makes them fat. I do feed it occasionally, but more as a treat than in the feed mix. Mostly I feed my own grass hay, which is a mix of mostly orchard grass, some timothy, and a little clover (which I like more for the bees than the critters).

good luck,
Tom A

Honeybee    Posted 04-18-2003 at 07:07:16       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I'd love a copy of the hay info, email/ms word word be great. Thank you for the good advice too.

How long did it take for your pasture to take hold and grow well?

Linda    Posted 04-18-2003 at 05:59:34       [Reply]  [No Email]
I know there has been quite a bit of success in Colorado with grazing knapweed using goats. I believe the grazing has to be intensive and timed correctly. I think I also read something recently about a bacterium or insect being tested that has promise. I'm sorry I don't have details but I suspect a web search and contacting the right ag extension might be very helpful. I'd especially look for info in the states of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. The person I knew who was having success with goats in Colorado lived in the Meeker area so you might want to check with an ag extension agent in that vicinity. If I come across any articles I'll post a link.

As far as I know, I don't think you'll have any success with trying to find plants that will choke out knapweed. There's one ranch in Montana that is overrun with knapweed, so much they haven't been able to find a buyer for the ranch for several years. Some of the recent reading I've done on the other methods of control I mentioned looked promising, though.

S    Posted 04-17-2003 at 20:32:11       [Reply]  [No Email]
Around here horse people like orchard grass or timothy. Orchard grass and alfalfa make a good hay mix. Most of the horse people I know do not want any clover in their hay.

toolman    Posted 04-18-2003 at 08:28:45       [Reply]  [No Email]
i don,t think clover is all that good for horses either and timoithy is a good horse hay and some alfaia is good in the cold months just don,t want it too rich, i wouldnt feed mine any over probably 25-30%alfaia but it does depend some people i know feed as much alfaia as they can to there arab horses, but my quarters don,t need it that rich ,they do really well on timoithy and i live just north east of you at about the 3300 ft. level in canada.

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