During the 2015, 2016, and 2017 growing seasons, weed and weed-free mixed tall fescue and legume forage samples were harvested from 29 pastures throughout Missouri for investigation of the nutritive value of 20 common pasture weed species throughout the season. At certain times during the growing season, many broadleaf weed species had greater nutritive values for a given quality parameter as compared with the available weed-free, mixed tall fescue and legume forage harvested from the same location. There were no significant differences in crude protein concentration between the weed-free forage and many weeds throughout the growing season. However, crude protein content of common burdock, common cocklebur, common ragweed, dandelion, horsenettle, and lanceleaf ragweed was greater than that of the corresponding forage sample at multiple collection periods. The digestible neutral detergent fiber (dNDF) content of all broadleaf weeds except lanceleaf ragweed was significantly lower than that of the weed-free forage at all collection periods. Conversely, large crabgrass had significantly greater digestible neutral detergent fiber levels than did the mixed tall fescue forage at all sampling dates. Dandelion and spiny amaranth had greater in vitro true digestibility (IVTD) content than did the forage for the entire growing season. Three perennial weeds—horsenettle, vervains, and late boneset—did not differ in IVTD levels as compared with the mixed tall fescue and legume forage at any collection date. For most summer annual weeds, the trend was toward greater digestibility earlier in the season, with a gradual decline and often lower IVTD by the late summer or early fall. The results of this study will enable producers to make more informed management decisions about the potential benefit or detriment a weed may provide to the overall nutritive value of the pasture system.
Nomenclature: Common burdock, Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh.; common cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium L.; common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.; dandelion, Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg; horsenettle, Solanum carolinense L.; lanceleaf ragweed, Ambrosia bidentata Michx.; large crabgrass, Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop.; late boneset, Eupatorium serotinum Michx.; spiny amaranth, Amaranthus spinosus L.; vervain species, Verbena spp.; tall fescue, Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort.