Toxic plants and livestock


Summer brings an abundance of plant growth, storms, and sometimes lower pasture forage availability due to dry weather. This combination can result in cattle consuming plants that are toxic. Experts suggest that nearly 100 species of plants grow in Kentucky. Exposure to toxic plants can be reduced by ensuring livestock always have an ample supply of forage. Also, be sure to know what trees exist on your property and be sure to check for fallen trees following storms. Here is a short list of toxic plants commonly found in Adair County.
Perilla Mint: A summer annual broadleaf plant often found along wood edges and other shady areas. Plant growth is a few feet in height with oblong leaves and square stems. The leaf color may range from green to purple and have a distinct odor. Cattle may graze perilla mint when the supply of desirable forage is low or when cattle are spending a large amount of their time in the shade. The toxic ketones found in perilla mint cause acute respiratory disease, which may lead to death or chronic lung problems and heart failure.
Wild Black Cherry Tree: A common tree found along fence rows, thickets, and open woodland. Trees are slender with horizontal branches. Leaves are alternate, simple, elliptical, and pointed, with finely toothed margins. The leaves are also leathery in texture and usually have a row of hairs on the lower surface along both sides of the midrib. When wilted, black cherry leaves contain a large amount of cyanic acid, which causes cyanide poisoning If the consumption level is within a lethal amount death usually occurs within 15 minutes or less. Treatment may be possible for animals that have consumed smaller amounts. Contact a veterinarian quickly if animals are suspected of consuming the wilted leaves.
Cocklebur: A summer annual broadleaf weed found commonly in grazed areas. Toxic portions of the plant include the seed and seedling in the “two leaf” stage. The toxins are not found in mature plants. Seeds contaminating hay, feed, or silage may cause toxicity. Toxicity most often occurs in calves and pigs.
Yew: An evergreen shrub popular among landscapes. Most all parts of Yew contain taxine alkaloids that can result in sudden death without any noticeable signs of toxicity. Consumption often occurs when landscape is trimmed and clippings are tossed over a fence where cattle graze.
For more information on toxic plants poisonous to livestock in Kentucky, contact the Adair County Cooperative Extension Office at (270) 384-2317.
Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression. pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, physical or mental disability or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. Reasonable accommodation of disability may be available with prior notice. Program information may be made available in languages other than English. University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky Counties, Cooperating. Lexington, KY 40506

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