K-State Research and Extension News
July 20, 2011
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Drought can Force Livestock to Eat Poisonous Plants



MANHATTAN, Kan. – The relentless drought that has settled over much of Kansas and states across the south brings more problems than the lack of pasture forage growth for livestock producers.

 

One potential problem, according to K-State Research and Extension veterinarian Larry Hollis, is that weedy species with greater drought tolerance sometimes out-compete desirable grasses and begin to proliferate. Another scenario is that desirable forage species are consumed but fail to re-grow, and only weedy species are left in a green vegetative state.

 

“Either of these scenarios can become a major problem if these remaining plants also contain toxic components,” Hollis said. “Fortunately, many toxic plants are also unpalatable, so livestock species tend to leave those plants alone. However, the problem comes when pastures are not properly managed, or forage supplementation is not provided in a timely fashion, and livestock are left with no choice but to consume toxic plants or go hungry.”

 

“Good pasture and livestock management call for knowing the toxic plant species that are common in your area or pastures,” he said. “It’s also important to recognize when pastures are getting short enough that cattle may be forced to consider undesirable options, and either supplement the cattle with hay or other feedstuffs or move them to dry lot situations or different pastures where available forages do not pose a toxicity threat to them. Cattle will eat toxic plants if starved.”

 

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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: Mary Lou Peter
mlpeter@ksu.edu
K-State Research & Extension News

Dr. Larry Hollis – 785-532-1246 or lhollis@ksu.edu