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toxic plants

 
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Location: Ellisforde, WA
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This topic needs to be addressed. Do research BEFORE growing the plant. Most pines are fine but Ponderosa pines are toxic. Some say black locust is fine, others say it's toxic to goats. From the research I did it seems to be stressed by frost. It should be o.k. by July when cut for tree hay, but I'm not willing to take the chance with my goats, so I'm growing honey locust.

I've heard that koshia is toxic to horses when it goes to seed. The sites say that it can be used for hay at the rate of 40%.  Goats should get only 40% alfalfa in their diet. I give them hay that is very grassy, so I can add some mature koshia or tree limbs. I think these plants mine so many nutrients that the animal may get too much at one time. I give them apples and squash in the fall, seeds are good for them.
 
pollinator
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A lot of the information out there about plants supposedly toxic to animals is assuming the animals are eating it in quantity, or are perhaps driven to eat it out of hunger when other forages are gone.  For instance my sheep readily eat plum leaves as they fall, and small amounts of plum and apricot prunings(even though these are on all the "poison" lists), with no ill effect....but this is a small part of a whole bunch of other things they are eating all the time.  
 
Liz Hoxie
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Yes, I agree, but why invest time in growing a plant, not to mention the money to buy it, expecting it to help feed your stock then it hurts them? Someone was kind enough to let some of her goats stay here one summer. We got the milk. They lived in the back yard and we thought we had blocked off the flower beds well enough. One got into the soapwort, ate enough to bloat her. We almost lost a $500 dollar goat!
I stopped freaking out when the chickens, who had been free-ranging all day, decided to eat the leaves off the rhubarb; the way I figured it there was 25 chickens,(almost grown, and 2 leaves. They didn't eat much per bird.
We just need to be aware.
 
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Hopefully, when people buy plants as feedstock for their livestock, they are doing some research. What gets to be difficult is that sources are not always in agreement and anecdotal reports are all over the map on many potential feedstocks.
Everyone needs to do a level of research that gives them a level of comfort with what they are doing.
 
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I honestly think toxicity in plants is overrated.

I have sheep, and while most people say they are dumb, I know they are smart enough to stay away from poisonous plants. Case in point is the milkweed which is said to kill them, yet I have a pasture that has plenty of it and I have never lost a sheep to it yet. The same can be said for grazing forest. I do that too and while I don't have a lot of Black Cherry, I have yet to lose a sheep from that. Another one is Rhododendrons, I have a few in my landscape and yet when the sheep get out they steer clear of it. And smooth bedstraw, it s said to cause the sheep to break out in sores around their mouths, but I have yet to see this.

I could go on.

The point is, while I have seen the lists of toxic plants, my experience has been the sheep know what is good and what is not, an instinctively and avoid it. I would never tempt fate and plant toxic plants in close proximity to their pastures, but I don't lose a lot of sleep over this issue either. But then again, I don't have $500 sheep either. I can certainly understand the sense of concern when grazing another person's livestock.

 
Liz Hoxie
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I have 1 goat that eats milkweed if it'dry, but won't touch it green. I figure there's something in the plant that she needs. Same goes for rhubarb leaves. Most of the time they leave it alone and go for the raspberries, they seem to want just a bite, and they don't argue when I move them away. I wish those 'toxic plant' lists answered more questions. Will they get diarrhea from eating a lot of it or will 1 nibble kill them?
I wish I knew what the plant that is 'toxic' contained that they need; I might be able to supply it in another form.
 
pollinator
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Sheep are not dumb and I tethered a sheep for a while under a rhododendron which is toxic. As long as there's grass under the tree the sheep eats the grass. Once the sheep is starving it will eat the toxic plants. Animals know what's good for them.
 
Travis Johnson
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Liz Hoxie wrote: I wish those 'toxic plant' lists answered more questions. Will they get diarrhea from eating a lot of it or will 1 nibble kill them?
I wish I knew what the plant that is 'toxic' contained that they need; I might be able to supply it in another form.



I have learned from observing sheep they will sort of tell me. When I see them biting on bark or nibbling on fence posts I have learned they need the minerals found in the bark, so that is when I set out the loose mineral mix. I used to do it all the time but found out I was tossing away a lot of minerals because it was ruined by rain, spoilage of their manure.

I agree with Angelika too that sheep are far from dumb.
 
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote:I honestly think toxicity in plants is overrated.



I'd agree.  From time to time my cows will devour poison hemlock, apparently not knowing that it is 'deadly' (to humans, at least).  It's always when the hemlock is quite tall, though if it's because at that point it is safe or because that's just how tall it always is whenever they're turned into that location, I don't know.
 
Wes Hunter
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Liz Hoxie wrote:
I wish I knew what the plant that is 'toxic' contained that they need; I might be able to supply it in another form.



Why?  I'd rather that need be supplied for free than shell out cash to achieve the same end.
 
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Yes!  

I think the other thing to consider is feeding a bunch of extras of something to penned animals,  for example if you harvested more brassicas than you could process or some  lambsquarter and threw it in the goat pen you might be murdering the goats, whereas if it's growing all around their open paddock they would browse around it and only nibble.

So then you wonder what to do with extra plants, maybe just drop it where you chopped. Something will eat it, worms or microbes.

Otherwise it sounds like many people's experience is that sheep and goats self-regulate in open pastures/paddocks.
 
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