How can I use livestock to control smutgrass?
Answer: The University of Florida has conducted many studies on the best ways to control smutgrass. Their recommendations can be found at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa261. A mature forage smutgrass isn’t very palatable or all that nutritious, making it a challenge to use grazing as the primary control method. Research shows that burning or mowing the smutgrass and then grazing the regrowth is more effective because the regrowth is more palatable and nutritious.There is extensive research on using livestock to manage invasive species. The Targeted Grazing Handbook provides helpful information on how to effectively use livestock to control and eliminate problem plants. You can download and read sections of the Handbook at www.sheepusa.org/ResearchEducation_Literature_TargetedGrazing. Section I provides the basics. Smutgrass isn’t specifically mentioned in the Handbook, but the principles apply. Kathy Voth has done many studies on using livestock to manage vegetation. Her website www.livestockforlandscapes.comhas some great information. You may be especially interested in the “Cows Eat Weeds” section. There she describes how you can train livestock to eat certain weeds.For a non-chemical method of control, it seems that a combination of burning/mowing and grazing will be your best option. For more information, contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). They can be a helpful resource in managing problem plants and in setting up targeted grazing plans.