cattails as livestock feed : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I live in a swamp that is full of cattails. As I've posted before, I'm experimenting with ways I can eat cattails, but I would also like to know if anyone has tried putting up cattails in any way for winter forage for livestock. My goats loved eating all my failed cattail attempts last fall. They chowed down cattail leaves and some of the roots. Can cattail leaves be dried like hay? Has anyone tried anything like this or heard of such a thing?

-- Sheryl in Me (, January 12, 2002


sorgum leaves where used as fodder,, so I cant see why cattails wouldnt either,, if they eat them green,, shoudl dryed. Ive ate young shoots,, "corn cob", the young seed heads,, and even ground and dryed the roots once. Not sure what else you could do,, besides just trying differant things. Grind the roots into flour,, and add to soups? Ill have to check one of my books

-- Stan (, January 12, 2002.

Cat tail leaves....humm....pick and dry. Soak in water then weave into mats, baskets, insulation and roofing. Probably lots of other stuff too, ask a practicing Native American. Cat tails were certainly multipurpose as you are finding out. I expect you know you can make wonderful flour from the heads and use the worms in the heads for fish bait. I understand the roots are like cucumbers in the spring and like potatoes in the fall. Have fun!

-- Susan in Northern Michigan (, January 12, 2002.

Could you feed cattails to lactating goats? Would it flavor the milk?

Hmm, on that line of thought, how bout willow branches? We have a never ending supply of those :)


-- Tracy (, January 13, 2002.

Willow bark contains aspirin- watch out on the goats, dont know if it would affect milk or not. I have heard that the pollen of cattails is directy made into flour. I like those shoots- nothing else tastes like them. The leaves might be devoid of nutrients for the cattle but?? Do be careful when eating cattails- boil first, as water contamination (IE giardia, etc) could be present (especailly on submerged regions).

-- Kevin in NC (, January 13, 2002.

Tracy, I fed cattail leaves to my lactating goats this past fall and there was no off-flavor. Of course, I was only feeding it as supplemental food...I don't know how it would be as the main course. I think some forage testing by the local land grant institute would be in order before I would go that far anyway.

-- Sheryl in Me (, January 13, 2002.

Sheryl, my own studies of wild food would lead me to believe that they would be wonderfull goat food, although I've never heard of anybody doing it before. It sounds like a pretty safe experiment considering the hardiness of a goats gastro-intestinal thang, and the fact that they have a worldwide reputation as a supermarket of human food. As with most plants, the cattails become more fibrous as they age, so if the goats don't eat the late season hay, you might try harvesting the greens younger. Since they haven't started their growing season yet, you could experiment with a early harvest hay, and a summer harvest, and a fall harvest; then compare how the goats feed on it for a couple of days with each type exclusively. With the vigor that cattails have, who knows-you might get two harvests, or more, out of some plants that you whack down for spring greens. I think the spring greens are where it will be at. The spring greens have the most nutrients in them as that is where the plant is operating. Later in the season, it is employing itself in flower stalk, pollen, seeds, etc., so the leaves would not contain as much of the nutrients. These might work well as bedding for your animals, that they could munch on at their leisure. Happy harvests!!!!

-- roberto pokachinni (, January 14, 2002.

Cattails seem to be very, very low in nutritional value. I suppose you can use them as scratch feed, but your livestock would need more supplimental feed for energy & protien. I found this (kinda poor) reference on the web, I've seen other references in print that discount cattails as having any feed value.

In addition, where I live if you try to hay cattails, you get a rather nasty letter from the county telling you that cattails only grow in a wetland, and since wetlands are a state resource, you are violating state laws by disturbing the cattails... Hope things are different where you live.


-- paul (, January 14, 2002.

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