Poisonous Pasture Weeds and Livestock

– Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, Penn State

Poisonous Pasture Weeds and Livestock

Horsenettle in a pasture setting. (Source: D. Lingenfelter, Penn State Weed Science)

During drought and other poor environmental conditions that reduce forage growth, there are concerns for poisonous weeds in pastures and hay. Livestock may be forced to graze on weeds that normally they would not, or they may eat weeds out of curiosity. Scout your pastures and remove these weeds before they cause livestock health problems. Keep in mind there are numerous poisonous plants that could invade an area or pasture. Many plants contain potentially poisonous substances that may be toxic to livestock if consumed. In addition, certain plants may be problematic because of mechanical irritation when eaten, photosensitization, and disagreeable tastes or odors in meat, milk or milk products. If you suspect livestock poisoning, call your local extension educator or veterinarian immediately. If death occurs, the stomach contents should be examined for consumed herbage. Identify the suspected plants and remove livestock from the grazing area until all poisonous plants have been removed or destroyed.

Continue reading at: https://extension.psu.edu/poisonous-pasture-weeds-and-livestock

Pasture Bloat Concerns and Responses

Last week in this publication we shared concerns for frothy bloat in pastured cattle. As a follow up, in this episode of Forage Focus, Host- Christine Gelley- Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources in Noble County and Dr. Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist, dig deeper into the causes and possible solutions for frothy bloat occurrences in pastured livestock. Their discussion includes how pasture managers need to be observant of forage growth, weather conditions, and animal behavior to avoid conditions that commonly trigger bloat and to recognize and treat bloat quickly if it occurs.

Ruminal Acidosis (Grain Overload)

Dr. Richard Bowen, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University (Previously published online with Colorado State University, VIVO Pathophysiology)

The rumen encases a complex ecosystem containing numerous species of bacteria and protozoa that collectively provide the capacity for efficient fermentation of carbohydrates. Among the major products of such fermentation are volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Wild ruminants and those raised on pasture consume a diet rich in grasses of one sort or another that consist mostly of cellulose. Cellulose is a molecule that might be called a “slowly fermentable carbohydrate”. In contrast, grains such as wheat, barley, and corn are considered “highly fermentable carbohydrates”, meaning that they can be very rapidly fermented to generate – you guessed it – large quantities of volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Ruminal acidosis results from consumption of a unaccustomed quantity of highly fermentable carbohydrate, almost always well described as grain overload.

Ruminal acidosis is most commonly a disease of dairy and feedlot cattle, and occasionally sheep in feedlots. All of these animals are typically fed large quantities of grain, because such a diet promotes production of milk and enhances growth. The key point is that animals and their ruminal microbes must be adapted over time to a high grain diet, rather than being acutely changed to such feed, otherwise acidosis commonly ensues. In some cases, animals develop acute acidosis “accidentally”, when, for example, they escape from their pen and get into a store of grain.

 

 

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Pasture (Frothy) Bloat; Beware when grazing legumes!

– Stephen Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Bloat has been described in agricultural writings since A.D. 60. Names for bloat have changed over the years: hoove, hoven, tympany, and blown have appeared in English journals of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bloat occurs when rumen gas production exceeds the rate of gas elimination. The gas accumulates and causes distention of the rumen (left side of cattle). If the situation continues, the inflated rumen interferes with respiration. The problem is worsened by the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the rumen. Death is normally due to suffocation.

Bloat is often associated with discontinuous grazing, such as the removal of animals from legumes pastures overnight. Pasture bloat may occur when grazing is interrupted by adverse weather, such as storms, or biting flies. Anything that alters normal grazing habits will increase the incidence of bloat. The following are a list of forages and their bloat potential:

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USDA Announces Pandemic Assistance to Farmers

Source: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week it is establishing new programs and efforts to provide financial assistance to farmers negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The new program is called the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers and is intended to reach a broader representation of producers than previous COVID-19 aid programs.  The program will place a greater emphasis on small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesting, as well as support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuels.

The USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) includes four parts.  Details below were provided in a news release from USDA.

Part 1:

USDA will dedicate at least $6 billion to develop a number of new programs or modify existing proposals using discretionary funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act and other coronavirus funding that went unspent by the previous administration. Where rulemaking is required, it will commence this spring. These efforts will include assistance for:

  • Dairy farmers through the Dairy Donation Program or other means:
  • Euthanized livestock and poultry;
  • Biofuels;
  • Specialty crops, beginning farmers, local, urban and organic farms;
  • Costs for organic certification or to continue or add conservation activities
  • Other possible expansion and corrections to CFAP that were not part of today’s announcement such as to support dairy or other livestock producers;
  • Timber harvesting and hauling;
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other protective measures for food and farm workers and specialty crop and seafood producers, processors and distributors;
  • Improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment;
  • Developing infrastructure to support donation and distribution of perishable commodities, including food donation and distribution through farm-to-school, restaurants or other community organizations; and
  • Reducing food waste.

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Grass Tetany/ Hypomagnesemia –Start Preventive Measures Now

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab; A special thanks to Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler for his contributions to this article.

What is “Grass Tetany” and when are cattle most likely to have it? Grass tetany, also known as spring tetany, grass staggers, wheat pasture poisoning, winter tetany or lactation tetany, is a condition resulting from a low level of magnesium (Mg) in the blood. Maintenance of blood magnesium depends on the amount obtained from the daily diet since the magnesium present in teeth and bones and is not easily mobilized in times of need. Magnesium is required for proper nerve and muscle function so low levels in the blood result in “tetanic spasms” where muscles contract uncontrollably. The disorder in an adult cow begins with separation from the herd and going off feed. The ears are often erect and twitching and the cow is alert, hyperexcitable and may be aggressive. The symptoms quickly progress to muscle spasms, convulsions, difficulty breathing, and death. Often the affected animal is found dead with evidence of thrashing and struggle on the ground around her. Deficiencies occur most often in beef cows when they are nursing a calf and grazing young, green grass in early spring. Fast-growing spring pastures are high in potassium (K+) and nitrogen (N+) and low in magnesium (Mg++) and sodium (Na+) ions. Affected cattle often have low blood calcium concurrently. Fall calving cows may also experience grass tetany during the winter months.

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Poison Hemlock Control

Source: Mark Loux, Curtis Young, OSU Extension

Poison hemlock remains one of the more persistent and prevalent poisonous weeds that we deal with in Ohio.  It’s most typically a biennial plant (sometimes perennial), emerging from seed in year one and developing into a low-growing rosette by late fall.  The rosette overwinters and then resumes growth in the spring of year two.  Stem elongation initiates sooner in spring than many other biennials, and this is followed by continued growth and development into the often very tall plant with substantial overall size.  Flowering and seed production occur in summer.

Failure to control poison hemlock occurs partly because, while it often grows in edges and fencerows around crop fields, no one really pays much attention to it until it does reach this large size when it’s less susceptible to herbicides.  And everyone is busy getting crops planted  in spring anyway so control of hemlock gets low priority.  Stages in the poison hemlock life cycle when it is most susceptible to control with herbicides are:  1) fall, when in the low-growing rosette stage; and 2) early spring before stem elongation occurs.  It’s most easily controlled in fall, but several products can work well in spring.  Herbicide effectiveness ratings for poison hemlock can be found in Table 21 of the current Weed Control Guide for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  Herbicides rated 8 or 9 on poison hemlock include the following:  9 – Crossbow, Remedy Ultra; 8 – Cimarron Max, Curtail, dicamba, glyphosate.  Mixing glyphosate and dicamba can improve control compared with either applied alone.

Several online resources cover poison hemlock more comprehensively than this article does, including this one from the University of Missouri.  Information on toxicity can also be found via an internet search or by contacting OSU Extension if help is needed to resolve a specific concern.