8 Effective Ways to Remove Thistles in Pastures

Published: November 10, 2021

You work hard to manage and maintain your pastures, so you may be understandably frustrated if you find yourself dealing with pesky weeds like thistles. Fortunately, there are things you can do for easy thistles removal and to keep them from coming back. To help you learn how to get rid of thistle in pastures, we’ve put together a handy list of the best way to kill thistles and other handy thistles control methods.

What are thistles?

Firstly, let’s discuss what thistles are and why thistles removal is so important to farmers and pastoralists. 

There are many varieties of thistle in Australia and New Zealand, and they were first declared a weed back around 1850. Thistles grow as a rosette of leaves close to the ground, with tall stems carrying the flowers. Flowers are mainly pink-purple although there are also some yellow flowering thistles varieties. 

Dealing with Variegated thistle and the Scotch or Bull thistles are common issues for farmers and pastoralists across Australia; without thistle control in pastures it can form very large infestations, choking out pasture species, as well as providing shelter for pest species such as rabbits. It is also poisonous under certain conditions and can kill cattle and occasionally sheep, particularly when they consume large quantities of the young thistles in the absence of alternative feed. With their needle-like spines, they can also cause injury to animals, and can cause serious contamination of wool, so learning how to get rid of bull thistle and variegated thistle can be particularly important. 

Now that we have the facts on thistles, here are some tips for the best way to kill thistles and thistle removal and control methods.

Tip 1: Monitor your pasture in late winter and early spring

How to get rid of thistle naturally is to attack them before they have a chance to grow and spread, so search for thistles before they start to flower. The best times to do this is during the late winter and early spring, while they are still sprouting.Take a walk through your pastures around this time to hunt for young thistles so you can take them out.

Young thistles will appear in a small, rosette growth form. While they’re still young, you won’t find the iconic spiny stems and flowers, instead, thistles will appear as small growths that feature wavy leaves that look like small rosettes. When you’re searching through your pastures, keep an eye out for these growths.

Tip 2: Remove them while still young

How do you get rid of thistles before they have developed yet? The easiest way is to dig out small patches of thistles if they haven’t flowered yet, using a shovel to cut the plant and then pull it out. If you only have small patches of individual thistle plants that are still in their growing phase, take a shovel and cut the plant about 7–10 cm below the surface of the soil to separate it from its roots. Then, grasp the base, pull it out of the ground, and ensure to dispose of it carefully to avoid it spreading. Removing the thistles before they flower will help to stop them from spreading any further.

Tip 3: Treat small thistles directly with herbicide

Spraying thistles in pasture with thistle spray or herbicide is best to do while they’re young. Try to catch them before they have had a chance to flower or produce seeds. Choose an herbicide that is suitable for thistles and apply it directly to the thistles to stop them before they get a chance to spread. Mix the herbicide according to the directions and use a hand or pump sprayer to apply it directly to the thistles.

Tip 4: Treat your entire pasture if you have adult thistles

If you have thistles, you likely have other weeds, too. If the thistles have moved past the sprouting stage and have started developing spikes and flowers, spraying thistles in pasture may not be enough to completely remove them. Your best bet is to use a strong herbicide to your entire field, which will knock out almost all of your weeds, including thistles. You can also consider a weed spraying service that can do this for you.

Tip 5: Mow the pasture for temporary control

If you want to know a simple approach on how to remove thistle weeds from your pasture, at least in the short term, then try to mow before the flower buds begin to emerge. While mowing won’t destroy the roots of the thistles, it’s a quick and easy thistle remover. If you can mow before the thistles are able to flower and spread their seeds, you can help limit their spread as well. Keep in mind that by not removing the roots, they are likely to grow back, so other thistles control methods will need to be applied as well.

You can also mow a pasture that’s been overrun with thistles and then apply a thistle spray or herbicide to help fully eradicate them. This method can also work if you are looking for how to remove thistles from lawn or your backyard. 

Tip 6: Use controlled burns for severe infestations

Burning your pasture before applying herbicide can help in very serious cases of thistle growth.. If your pasture has been completely overrun by thistles, a controlled burn followed by a strong herbicide may be able to remove your thistle problem. Controlled fires can cause serious damage if they spread and get out of control, so ensure you follow all required steps when you are planning your burns. Visit the applicable website for your local authority and follow all requirements when planning and conducting your controlled burn.

Tip 7: Avoid overgrazing to help prevent thistles.

Many types of thistle become established on bare or over-grazed patches of land, so practising good pasture and livestock management can help to avoid overgrazing and providing conditions for thistles to thrive. 

Tip 8: Check your pastures weekly for thistles.

The best way to stop thistles from becoming a problem on your property, is to monitor for new growth and prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place. Like with most things, prevention is always better than a cure.. If you notice a few thistle plants out in your pasture, take action to get rid of them as soon as you can. That handful of thistles that you see now can quickly turn into hundreds and thousands in a year or two if left unchecked.

If you are looking for additional help for how to remove thistle weeds and control thistles in your pastures, get in touch with Rencon Air & Land. Our services are conducted using the best and most unique equipment, as well as local knowledge and years of experience in the Agricultural and Forestry industries.

We have the resources, facilities and skills to cater for all your weed control needs. 

To learn more about what we can offer, call us direct on 1300 RENCON (736 266) or get in touch with us here