Checking Pastures After Storms Should Be a Priority!

— Written By and last updated by JoAnne Gryder
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With the recent storms, livestock producers need to be mindful of potential dangers that may have blown in or down into their pastures.  Pastures that contain trash can be a source of health problems for cattle. There are several situations that could occur. One is due to the “windy weather” that “blow down” trees or scatter limbs and leaves and other foreign materials in pastures. If wild cherry trees are adjacent to, or in the fence row, it would be a “good practice” to check the pastures for wild cherry leaves, broken limbs or downed trees. If consumed, wilted wild cherry trees can poison cattle and do it in a hurry.

Walking pastures is a “time consuming practice,” but it is worth it if can prevent cattle from being poisoned.  Another poisonous plant that is found in the pasture “fence rows” is Perilla Mint, sometimes referred to as “purple mint” because of its color and odor. Cattle will not normally consume these plants unless their activity is limited in a smaller pasture or lot in which they become bored. A good practice is to destroy these plants when found.

Another source of plant poison is the trimmings from shrubbery and/or lawn plants. Do not make the mistake of trimming the shrubbery and throwing them across the fence to the cattle. Burning or hauling the trimmings off to another location is recommended.

Scrap metal, wire, nails and similar trash can cause “hardware disease” if consumed. Lameness is a possibility if the cattle step on the objects and injure their feet. Plastic baling twine that was not removed from the round bales last winter and was left in the pasture during feeding can be a problem. Cattle will “nibble” on the twine, swallow it, but, it is not digestible and will accumulate in the rumen and hinder the digestive action.

In summary, following are some suggestions to reduce the health problems or injuries from either poisonous plants or foreign materials that could be present in cattle pastures: (1) Be able to identify poisonous plants and remove from pastures before problems occur. (2) Scout pastures following high winds for fallen trees or blown off limbs that could be poisonous. (3) Do not dispose of lawn plant clippings by feeding it to cattle. (4) Avoid grazing or confining cattle in areas where they would have access to poisonous plants.

(5) Have an ample supply of water for cattle.
Tennessee Cooperative Extension

Written By

Photo of John CothrenJohn CothrenCounty Extension Director and Ext Agent, Agriculture - Livestock and Field Crops (336) 651-7348 john_cothren@ncsu.eduWilkes County, North Carolina
Posted on May 11, 2016
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