If you’re in an area where rain has been plentiful this season, you may need to watch for some problems that you might not be used to, such as bloating and plant toxicity.
In West Texas, for example, Texas Cooperative Extension livestock specialist Bruce Carpenter says that some desirable forbs are testing as high as 25 percent crude protein. “This can cause cattle to bloat and die, just like they sometimes do on lush wheat or alfalfa pastures.”
Locoweed poisoning is also causing problems. “Animals usually have to eat the plant for about two months before signs of poisoning appear,” says Texas Cooperative Extension range specialist Charles Hart. “Animals can recover from mild cases if removed from the pasture. But permanent brain damage occurs once the animal becomes ‘locoed.’ Signs include excessive excitability, especially in horses, low head carriage, trembling, difficulty eating and drinking, and abortion.”
Once animals start eating locoweed, they continue grazing the plant, so you need to move the affected animal to a pasture with little or no locoweed.
Tansy mustard is another plant causing problems, says Dr. Hart. When consumption is moderate, tansy mustard is a desirable, nutritious forage.
Dr. Carpenter says that tansy mustard contains an unidentified chemical that causes tongue paralysis and blindness in cattle. Affected cattle often begin “head-pressing.” They stand and press their heads against immobile objects. Because they are blind, they don’t eat or drink, so death occurs through dehydration and rumen impaction. Most recover, if removed from the affected pasture, re-hydrated and fed.”
You can learn more at Texas Cooperative Extension toxic plant database at http://texnat.tamu.edu/cmplants/toxic/index.htm.