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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #296625

Research Project: Understanding and Mitigating the Adverse Effects of Poisonous Plants on Livestock Production Systems

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: Detección de compuestos inductores de aborto en acículas de enebro (Juniperus communis) y suero de vacas abortadas en los montes de la Rioja

item Brieva, J - Bricalvet, Servicios Veterinarios
item Atxaerandio, R - Neiker-Instituto Vasco De Investigacion Y Desarrollo Arario
item Gomez, N - Neiker-Instituto Vasco De Investigacion Y Desarrollo Arario
item Minguijon, E - Neiker-Instituto Vasco De Investigacion Y Desarrollo Arario
item Gardner, Dale

Submitted to: Electronic Publication
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/9/2013
Publication Date: 6/1/2013
Citation: Brieva, J., Atxaerandio, R., Gomez, N., Minguijon, E., Gardner, D.R. 2013. Detección de compuestos inductores de aborto en acículas de enebro (Juniperus communis) y suero de vacas abortadas en los montes de la Rioja. Electronic Publication. 100:18-20.

Interpretive Summary: Recently, in the mountain region of Rioja, Spain there has been an increase in early parturition and the birth of small weak or often dead calves. All laboratory analyses were negative for suspected disease or infectious agents. The premature births were often late in gestation, near 270 days, and calves were small, weak or dead. Cows also showed retained placentas. The clinical description of the affected cows was similar to that reported for pine needle induced abortion occurring in western North America. Further examination of pastures and correspondence with producers indicated cattle were exposed to common juniper (Juniperus communis) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Samples of sera were collected from four different farms and included samples from both cows that aborted calves and cows calving full term. Samples of juniper and pine needles were also collected from each farm. Analysis of juniper needles found high concentrations of the abortifacient compound known as isocupressic acid (ICA) and serum analysis confirmed consumption of the needles by detection of metabolites of isocupressic acid. Given the high concentration of ICA in the juniper needles, the clinical signs reported and the detected metabolites in the sera of cows from the affected farms, it was concluded that the abortions occurring in the Rioja region of Spain are most likely caused by juniper consumption. This appears to be the first document case of premature birth or abortions induced in cattle from free grazing of common juniper. Producers have recently taken management efforts to restrict access of pregnant cattle to any juniper within the grazing pastures and provide adequate feed in times of poor range conditions. Since the changes in management practice have be implemented the reported cases of induced abortion have been greatly reduced if not eliminated.

Technical Abstract: Over recent years, there have been observed in several cattle farms within the region of the Sierra de Cameros (La Rioja) mountains, reproductive alterations consisting of pre-mature births and birth of dead calves or calves of reduced viability. After laboratory examination of several cases with negative results, we proceeded to investigate the possible involvement of toxic compounds. In view of the clinical picture observed and the overlap with American descriptions of poisoning on needles of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and other plants, including Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) and common juniper (Juniperus communis) . In early 2011, serum samples from affected and unaffected animals, and needles from common juniper and of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) were collected from three farms. The three farmers were also interviewed in order to collect clinical data and the reproductive process of the sampled animals. The results indicate the presence of several abortifacient compounds in serum of cows on needles and juniper. As far as the authors know, this is the first description of the possible involvement of common juniper (Juniperus communis) as a cause of bovine preterm birth and prenatal mortality in Spain.