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Turning Troublesome Kochia Weeds Into Money
Many a farmer has looked at a vigorous crop of weeds and wished that some of that vigor could be found in a useful crop.
A Texas cattleman, Ron Grist, made that observation a couple years ago and decided to do something about it. The weed was what Texans call "kochia" or "burning bush", which is common on range land.
"A bunch of us got to talking about it around the coffee table a while back. We noticed that our cattle seemed to like kochia and did well when they grazed on it," Grist told FARM SHOW. "I had heard that one company ran a protein test on it and found it to be about 17%, the same as wheat and alfalfa."
So Grist and a half dozen of his neighbors decided to cultivate the weed for livestock grazing. Grist combined some old. fields that had high kochia populations and saved the seed. In spring of 1979 he planted 62 acres of kochia.
He prepared the field by disking, then seeded by airplane at a rate of 4 lbs. per acre. After seeding, he turned on his irrigation system to get the crop off to a good start, and timely rains later insured a good stand.
Grist turned his cattle in when the plants were about 12 in. high. At the early growth stage, kochia is green and succulent, and cattle like it. When the cattle were pulled off the pasture later, they had averaged 1.5 lbs. daily gain.
"Some of my neighbors reported gains of 2 lbs. per day on kochia," says Grist. "The secret is to graze it early and keep it from getting tall and stemmy. I could have carried more cattle on it than I did."
Some of the Texas cattlemen who have tried kochia are stocking it at the rate of 4 head of cattle per acre, but the crop is so new that there is still much to learn about its management.
The cattle on kochia range got no other feed, and there were no problems with bloat. There's also a possibility of putting up kochia hay.
What about spreading kochia into corn and milo fields where it is not wanted?
Grist thinks that is not going to be a problem in this day of weed chemicals. "I've been keeping kochia out of fields for the last 15 years using atrazine and propazine," he says. "And, as far as seed contamination is concerned, it would be no problem with corn or milo because our cleaning methods are so good. But it could be a problem in alfalfa where the seeds are the same size."
Grist thinks kochia can fit right into his future cattle feeding program. He plans to increase his acreage of kochia this year.
For more information contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ron Grist, Holly Sugar Road, Box 1641; Hereford, Texas 79045 (ph 806 364-6030).

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1980 - Volume #4, Issue #1