Drought-Stricken Pastures Concern for Cattle
Calf Deaths Attributed to Weed Toxicity
MANHATTAN, Kan. – A producer and a veterinarian in western Kansas recently called in the expertise from the Production Animal Field Investigation Unit with the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University to help solve the mystery surrounding deaths of several calves on a drought-stricken ranch.
Gregg Hanzlicek, director of the unit and a veterinarian in the diagnostic laboratory, said the local veterinarian had eliminated all contagious diseases as the cause of the deaths.
“We knew this area had been through two to three years of drought,” Hanzlicek said. “We found a well-managed herd, with the calves getting plenty of milk. But we did notice very little grass for the animals to graze on.”
The calves were grazing on multiple weeds. The weeds showing evidence of grazing were collected and sent back to Kansas State for analysis.
“The weeds were all nontoxic, except for one, a Senecio species that causes acute to chronic liver toxicity, which was identified by toxicologist, Dr. Deon van der Merwe,” he said. Pathology reports showed that the calves died from liver toxicity.
In a drought situation where there isn’t grass, animals will graze other species of plants that they don’t normally consume.
He advised moving the cattle off of the pasture and weaning the calves early.
“In a drought situation, producers usually don’t have this alternative. Supplement some type of feed every other day or so, enough to keep them full so they don’t eat other plants they don’t normally consume,” he advised.
In this case, the producer is providing sorghum-sudan as an alternative feed source.
Hanzlicek advised calling in a local veterinarian to investigate any unknown cause of calf deaths.
An audio interview with Hanzlicek on Agriculture Today Radio is available.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.
Story by: Elaine Edwardselainee@ksu.eduK-State Research & Extension News
Gregg Hanzlicek - email@example.com