Burdock on Snow


Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa L.) on Snow

That is the only burdock I’ve seen in our home area this year. Burdock were my bane for years. When we initially moved to the mountain I hadn’t seen any burdock. Then during the early to mid 1990’s I saw the first plants show up at the north end of the road. Some one, probably a bird, had introduced them. Maybe they were in someone’s bird feeder seeds. Gradually the plants spread southward along the sunny side of the road, carried by animals and wind down the valley. They are pretty but a call to battle.

Burdock have medicinal value. Some people eat them. The plants are good food for livestock. The flowers are pretty. The burrs are kind of fun, a natural velcro and great for tossing at each other. So why are they such a bad bane you ask? The first time your sheep get into a mature dried burdock patch in the fall you’ll realize just how awful they are, both the sheep and the plant. Picking many hundreds of dried burr husks out was a nightmare. *sign* And they were both so cute…

The plants get huge, sometimes well over six feet tall and with big elephant ear sized leaves. I’ve dug up massive thick roots that were over six feet long, pulling them up using the tractor. Pain in the petutti to try and get rid of is what they are. I fought back with machete and loppers. We made good progress keeping the plants at bay. It became a holding battle with them creeping in and us slashing them back every year.

Turns out pigs love burdock. They eat the tops – leaves, stalks and flowers. They dig up the roots and eat those too. Burdock are one of their favorite foods. Now there are no burdock where the pigs pasture. Best of all, burdock burrs don’t stick to pigs very well and the few that do for a moment they nibble off each other. I just wish I could pasture the pigs on the sides of the road, moving them up to clean out the valley from this invader. So now when I see burdock in the field I don’t worry. The pigs will eat them before the burrs become a problem getting stuck in the sheep’s wool.

Outdoors: 36째F/14째F Gloriously Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63째F/56째F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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12 Responses to Burdock on Snow

  1. sheila says:

    Goes to show why mixed farming works out best.

  2. Ryan says:

    You talk about sheep, do you sell mutton?

  3. Nance says:

    and why I am going to have to get a pig. I have burdock here, burdock there, burdock everywhere! Yes, I'm going to have to have a swine. Is swine both singular and plural?

  4. Gail in Montana says:

    Burdocks are a pain for farmers and even gardeners. It's not fun trying to get them out of your clothings and trying to pull them out of the ground. Glad you were able to win your battle!!!!

  5. heyercapital says:

    Industrial: "Spray!" "Slash!" "Burn!" "Waaaaar!"

    Walter/Pigs/et al: "Eat."

  6. Ryan, we don't sell lamb or mutton at this time. Before discovering we were so good at raising pigs we had tried farming sheep. The economics didn't work out again due to the cost of slaughter and butchering. Perhaps after we have our own on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop setup we may expand our sheep again. They graze very well with the pigs and now we're pretty much free of the burdock.

  7. ranch101 says:

    I had burr clover at the ranch. I didn't know what it was at first – clover with cute yellow blossoms – so I let it stay. My eldest choked (as in stopped breathing) twice on burr clover burrs as an infant. The only two times I've ever had to use my CPR training. Fortunately, they were easy to pull up. The plants fought among themselves, and the ones that survived long enough to get near the burr stage were easy to pull up and delicious to the sheep and chickens. I had pretty much cleared it out by the time we moved.

  8. Mary Ricksen says:

    American grown lamb is so hard to find these days. It's also rather costly. It far surpasses the horrid meat that comes from New Zealand or Australia.
    It might be a profitable idea.
    Put leashes on the pigs and take them for a walk down the burdock road. (grin)

    • Angie says:

      I know this post is a couple of years old but as a proud Aussie I feel compelled to comment – our Aussie lamb is anything but horrid, in fact I enjoyed some delicious, tender loin chops just last night.

      • Hmm… I wasn’t the one who raised that challenge and I’ve never had Aussie lamb, to the best of my knowledge, so I’ll bow to the expertise of people who have tasted both varieties. I love lamb, and mutton, especially with barley in soups and stews.

  9. Heidi says:

    I had read that pigs liked burdock and so we tried raising a couple last year, as we raise Shetland sheep and the burdocks are a nightmare. The pigs just ate around the burdock!

  10. Interesting, Heidi. Do you feed the pigs corn or commercial hog feed (corn/soy)? In the Food Inc movie I noticed that Saladin's pigs were not eating the burdock or grass around their grain feeder.

    My guess was that they are finding the grain so appetitive that they don't move onto the more nutritious graze and forage. The grain is like candy, full of calories, so it might be that they're being selective. This is definitely something that one sees with all species, the selective grazing. But given that ours like the burdock (and thistles) so much I'm surprised yours skipped it.

    Another thought is learned behavior. Critters, ourselves included, often are hesitant to eat new and unknown things because they might be poisonous. Thus they have to get a taste for it before they start grazing it well.

    I'm curious about the make up of plants in your pastures (e.g., grasses, herbs, legumes (clover, alfalfa…), brush, etc.). Perhaps that has something to do with it too.

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