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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: LIVESTOCK LOSSES FROM ABORTIFACIENT AND TERATOGENIC PLANTS

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: The Effect of Poisonous Range Plants on Abortions in Livestock

Authors
item WELCH, KEVIN
item DAVIS, THOMAS
item PANTER, KIP
item PFISTER, JAMES
item GREEN, BENEDICT

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 7, 2009
Publication Date: February 1, 2009
Repository URL: http://www.pprl.ars.usda.gov
Citation: Welch, K.D., Davis, T.Z., Panter, K.E., Pfister, J.A., Green, B.T. 2009. The Effect of Poisonous Range Plants on Abortions in Livestock. Rangelands, 31(1):28-34. http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.2111/1551-501X-31.1.45?

Interpretive Summary: Natural toxins from plants and fungi, in addition to man-made toxicants, have been implicated with abortion, embryonic death, or neonatal loss in livestock. Plants causing reproductive problems for livestock can be found on most, if not all rangelands worldwide, thus exposing livestock at various times and circumstances. The impacts of toxins from poisonous range plants on the embryo, fetus, and neonate are sometimes dramatic, and the consequences are economically important to the livestock industry. Grazing management strategies using results of research and application of some basic concepts of toxicology have reduced losses to livestock producers. In this review, several plants known to cause abortions in livestock will be discussed with an emphasis on pine needle-induced abortions. Poisonous plants in pastures and ranges have a marked impact on fetal and neonatal survival and development. Some of those plants and their toxins have been discussed in this review. However, there are many more plants on the range, known and unknown, which may also affect the fetus in utero, causing adverse effects on the embryo or fetus. The knowledge of how these plants affect the unborn and their consequences on the neonate and ultimately the adult will help us to better manage livestock to avoid losses on ranges with these plants. Livestock management on western ranges is changing. Enhancing the ability of livestock to graze western ranges containing poisonous plants often leads to a more economical and productive use of these areas. What seems most important here is that, despite the presence of toxic plants, these lands serve as a source of high quality animal protein for a growing human population. However, further research is needed to identify methods by which poisonous plant-induced harmful effects on grazing animals and the associated economic losses can be reduced.

Technical Abstract: Natural toxins from plants and fungi, in addition to man-made toxicants, have been implicated with abortion, embryonic death, or neonatal loss in livestock. Plants causing reproductive problems for livestock can be found on most, if not all rangelands worldwide, thus exposing livestock at various times and circumstances. The impacts of toxins from poisonous range plants on the embryo, fetus, and neonate are sometimes dramatic, and the consequences are economically important to the livestock industry. Historically, reproductive problems due to toxic plants often went undiagnosed and/or unreported because of fears about underlying genetic defects, the related negative impacts on the sale of breeding stock, or because the death of offspring was not associated with any visible malformation such as cleft palate or heart anomalies. However, as more information has been developed about plants affecting reproduction, such fears have largely subsided, and producers are more open to understanding the root causes of the problems. Grazing management strategies using results of research and application of some basic concepts of toxicology have reduced losses to livestock producers. In this review, several plants known to cause abortions in livestock will be discussed with an emphasis on pine needle-induced abortions.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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