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Protecting Livestock in Fall Grazing
Ohio Ag Connection - 09/14/2023

As fall approaches, it's essential for livestock owners to be vigilant about potential hazards that can affect grazing animals. Taking proactive measures and being informed about common issues can help prevent livestock poisoning and ensure the well-being of your animals. Here are some key considerations:

1. Pasture Assessment: Regularly walk or drive through your pastures to assess the vegetation growing in and around them. Understanding your pasture's composition is the first step in identifying potential hazards.

Buckeye Poisoning: One often overlooked fall hazard is Buckeye Poisoning, caused by the nuts that fall from buckeye trees. Symptoms in affected cattle can include loss of balance, weakness in the legs, muscle twitching, and altered behavior. Buckeye poisoning is primarily caused by glycosides like aesculin and fraxin. It's essential to act promptly if poisoning is suspected, including the use of laxatives to remove ingested plant parts and maintaining hydration for affected animals.

Cyanide Poisoning (Prussic Acid Poisoning): Cyanide poisoning can result from the consumption of various plants, including black cherry trees, johnsongrass, and certain sorghum species. Wilted cherry leaves and branches are particularly problematic. To prevent cyanide poisoning, remove downed limbs and leaves from pastures and ensure they have dried completely before allowing livestock access. When dealing with cyanide-prone grasses like johnsongrass or sorghum, be cautious after frost or regrowth, as they can contain high levels of cyanide. Fertilizing with nitrogen can exacerbate the toxicity. Intravenous treatment with a sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate mixture is recommended if poisoning is suspected.

Nitrate Poisoning: It's important to note that some plants, like johnsongrass and sorghum, can also accumulate toxic levels of nitrate. These can be a common source of nitrate poisoning in cattle.

Seek Expert Guidance: For more information on poisoning and toxicities that may affect your livestock, consult your county Extension Educator. They can provide valuable insights and resources to help you manage risks effectively. Ensure you have a Veterinary Client Patient relationship in place with your veterinarian and contact them immediately if you suspect poisoning in your herd.

Preventative Measures: To minimize the risk of poisoning, consider preventive actions such as removing hazardous vegetation, monitoring grazing conditions after frost, and being cautious with nitrogen fertilization. Additionally, explore cyanide-free alternatives for forage crops.

The autumn grazing season brings its own set of challenges, including the risk of poisoning from specific plants. By staying informed, conducting regular pasture assessments, and implementing appropriate precautions, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of your livestock during this critical season.

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