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Poisonous weeds in hay

Most weeds aren't palatable to livestock and they'll avoid them in a pasture if there is adequate forage. However, if a toxic weed ends up in hay, the animals can't easily tell dried weeds from beneficial forage. Ingestion can make them sick, or even cause death.

Krishona Martinson is an equine specialist with the University of Minnesota. She says some weeds retain their toxicity when dry, others don't. Wild parsnip, and poison hemlock are common toxic weeds, and there are dozens of others depending on where you live. Protect your animals with good forage management.

"You are keeping track of that soil fertility, you are keeping track of the pH, you have a regular mowing or a regular grazing schedule and in a pasture setting you're not overgrazing," says Martinson. "That sod, that turf, is quite competitive against weeds and if you manage it well, you shouldn't have a huge weed problem."

Martinson suggests walking around your hay field and scouting for weeds every time you cut. Know the soil conditions they thrive in and avoid those areas if you can.

"A lot of these poisonous plants with the exception of wild parsnip and hoary alyssum usually tend to like to be in a shaded or a bit of a wet area," she says. "And where that becomes a problem is during a drought year when people start bailing up sloughs or ditches, or maybe other areas that would be too wet in a normal year and aren't normally a managed hay field. That's when we see a lot of problems."

Symptoms of weed poisoning depends on the animal, the plant ingested, and how much was ingested. Call your veterinarian if you suspect the animal has eaten a toxic plant.

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