story to find out more.
An Angus cow enjoys a meal of grass and forage
kochia. Click the image for more information about it.
Snowy Pastures' Hidden Treat: Forage Kochia
By Marcia Wood
January 11, 2006
Utah rancher Bob Adams (left) and ARS plant
geneticist Blair Waldron discuss the nutritional value of forage kochia.
Click the image for more information about it.
When snows blanket rangelands of the western United States, seeds, leaves
and stems of a winter-hardy plant called forage kochia (KO-chuh) make an
especially welcome, protein-rich treat for hungry animals. The shrub like plant
nourishes not just cattle but sheep, deer, elk and antelope.
Having a new, taller forage kochia that could poke through the snowdrifts
for easier reach would definitely help animals during the harsh winter months,
according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist
L. Waldron. That's why he's studying taller-growing forage kochia plants
from Kazakhstan and other parts of Eurasia that might be used as parents for
The only kind of forage kochia sold in the United States today--a plant
called Immigrant--generally grows no more than two feet high, whereas Eurasian
specimens apparently can reach five feet.
Waldron, based at the ARS
and Range Research Laboratory in Logan, Utah, collaborated with Utah State
University animal scientists in a recent study that provides new details about
forage kochia's ability to keep cattle--and ranchers' balance sheets--in good
For the test, 42 pregnant Angus cows spent early November through late
January in either corrals, where they were fed alfalfa hay, or in pastures of
forage kochia and crested wheatgrass.
At study's end, two indicators of overall health--body condition and
backfat--were within the desirable range for all animals. Although backfat
measurements were lower for cows that grazed on pasture, these animals were
nonetheless in excellent condition for calving.
What's more, their feed costs were 25 percent less than their alfalfa-fed
Planting forage kochia isn't a new idea for the intermountain West--the
region that extends from eastern Oregon and Washington through Nevada, Idaho,
Utah and Colorado to northern Arizona and New Mexico.
But the high cost of alfalfa hay, and the increased competition for water to
irrigate it, are leading ranchers to take a new look at forage kochia.
more about the research in the January 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.