Poisonous Plants, Bulletin 415, Preventing livestock losses Research : USDA ARS Skip to main content
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Bulletin 415
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Plants Poisonous to Livestock in the Western States

To view the full document go to /ARSUserFiles/oc/np/PoisonousPlants/PoisonousPlants.pdf

Poisonous plants are a major cause of economic loss to the livestock industry.  Each year these plants adversely affect 3 to 5 percent of the cattle, sheep, goats, and horses that graze western ranges. All too often the losses to individual livestock operations are large enough to threaten the viability of that ranch.

Livestock losses can be heavy if animals:

There are no known treatments for animals poisoned by most poisonous plants. Where a treatment is available, affected animals are usually in remote places and cannot be reached until it is too late to provide the treatment. Furthermore, the stress of handling poisoned animals may increase the probability of death. If the animals recover enough to be handled, treatment should consist primarily of symptomatic treatment except where a specific treatment is known.

Prevention of loss from poisonous plants in general is a problem of range and livestock management. Under normal conditions, some poisonous plants form an important part of livestock diets without negative effects on the animals. Poisoning occurs only when these animals are enticed by hunger or other stress conditions to eat too much too fast.

Symptoms listed for each plant toxicity are those most likely to be observed. Not all symptoms will be seen in all toxicities and signs of poisoning may vary greatly, depending on dosage and the time taken to consume the dose. Also, individual animals respond differently to specific poisons.

To protect your animals from poisoning:

If your animals get sick, consult your local veterinarian to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. If a poisonous plant is involved, identification of the plant is essential for any corrective action.