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Owners Beware:

Some Plants are Poisonous to Dairy Goats

Miriah Reynolds

Goats

**Writers Disclosure: Being that Dairy Goat Journal is read by farmers all over the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world – my list of toxic plants may not be complete. Please research regional vegetation and check with county extensions offices to determine which plants might be poisonous for goats. Do not hold me accountable in the event that a goat consumes a plant that is not described below.

Goats

**Writers Disclosure: Being that Dairy Goat Journal is read by farmers all over the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world – my list of toxic plants may not be complete. Please research regional vegetation and check with county extensions offices to determine which plants might be poisonous for goats. Do not hold me accountable in the event that a goat consumes a plant that is not described below.

One winter several years ago, my family’s entire dairy goat herd escaped from the barn and consumed a Japanese yew. Eight of our does immediately became terribly sick. They were lying flat on the ground with muscle spasms, projectile vomiting, shaking, diarrhea, and were screaming at the top of their lungs. It was horrifying.

For almost a week we had all eight goats hooked up to IVs, and forced fluids and mashed grain into their mouths and made them eat activated charcoal.

(Activated charcoal helps prevent the poison from absorbing into the body.) We slept in the barn trying to comfort them as the toxins ran through their bodies. Watching my goats suffer from plant poisoning was awful beyond words. At the time our family did not realize that Japanese yew was toxic.

We were able to save seven of the poisoned does, but ended up losing one doe, our Oberhasli, Honeysuckle. If I had known then what I know now, she would still be alive.

Managing every aspect of goat care can be very time consuming. From deworming, hoof trimming, showing, kidding, and daily chores, most goat owners’ main concern is their goats’ overall health and well-being. Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. Soon pastures will be bursting with gorgeous grasses and trees will be flourishing with leaves. Now is the time, however, to incorporate pasture management into an already packed schedule. Believe me, checking pastures, lots, gardens, and even front and back yards of homesteads for poisonous plants is a part of management that should never be ignored. It could save lives! There are multiple reasons that goats may consume poisonous plants.

If goats are in an area that has several forage options then they typically will not bother with the poisonous plants.

However, I have seen firsthand that goats will seek out a toxic plant (such as rhododendron and the Japanese yew mentioned before). Poisonous plant problems can be reduced by pasture management, adequate fences, and proper feeding. When goats are hungry or forced to browse/graze abnormally where poisonous plants are abundant, they will consume them.

Unlike sheep which prefer to graze, goats are browsers and like to climb onto rocks and in trees to reach for the most hard to get plants. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, not all poisonous plants are unpalatable.

Consumption of some toxic plants do not always harm the animal unless it is consumed in large quantities and too quickly.

Symptoms of plant poisoning are hard to pinpoint as many plants have specific effects on each animal. It is important to be able to identify the poisonous plants in a local area and read up on the general symptoms that they cause. Note that many plants have several names depending on the part of the country in which they are common.

Here is a list I have compiled from several sources of plants specifically poisonous to dairy goats. My sources for this list include: Cornell University, Fias Co. Farm, and The Merck Veterinary Manual, 10th edition:

Plants poisonous to goats:

  • African blue lily
  • African rue
  • Allspice
  • American aloe
  • Angel wings
  • Arrow grass
  • Autumn crocus
  • Avacado
  • Azalea
  • Black walnut
  • Bitterweed
  • Black locust
  • Broomweed, snakeweed, sinkweed, turpentine
  • Buffalo bur
  • Chili pepper
  • Chinaberry
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Choke cherries and leaves
  • Cocklebur
  • Coffeepod—sicklepod
  • Common poppy
  • Coontie, Florida arrowroot
  • Copperweed
  • Curly dock, Dock, Sorrel
  • Death camas
  • Desert azalea
  • Desert Rose
  • Dog Hobble
  • Dumb cane
  • Easter lily
  • Elderberry
  • English Holly
  • False Tansy
  • Flatweed
  • Fly poison—staggergrass
  • Foxglove
  • Fuchsia
  • Fume wort
  • Goat weed
  • Greasewood
  • Halogeton
  • Holly Bushes
  • Holly Trees
  • Horse nettle
  • Horsebrush
  • Hound’s tongue
  • Hyacinths
  • Indian Hemp, Mary Jane
  • Inkweed
  • Ivy
  • Japanese pieris
  • Japanese Yew
  • Jimmy fern, cloak fern
  • Kalanchoe
  • Larkspur—Both tall and low (little)
  • Lilacs
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lobelia
  • Locust tree
  • Lupine
  • Marijuana
  • Milkvetch (loco weed)
  • Milkweed
  • Mistletoe
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Nightshade
  • Oaks
  • Oleander
  • There are also several poisonous mushrooms
  • Onions—wild and cultivated
  • Pingue, Colorado
  • Pink Death Camas
  • Poinsettia
  • Poision rye grass
  • Rattleweed
  • Red Maple
  • Rhododendron
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Schefflera, umbrella
  • Skunk cabbage
  • Sneezewood
  • Snowbread, shooting
  • Spider lily
  • Spotted water hemlock
  • Staggerweed
  • Sweet clover, white
  • Tall fescue
  • Tansy mustard
  • Velvet grass
  • Wild Cherry
  • Wild Hydrangea
  • Wild Indigo- rattle weed
  • Wild parsnips
  • Wood sorrel
  • Yellow knapweed
  • Yew





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