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Livestock producers urged to watch for toxic plants

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By: Blair Fannin

Photo caption: Coffee senna is a plant with 6-8 inch beans that can become toxic to livestock due to extreme heat and dry conditions. (Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory photo)

Extreme heat, dry conditions can lead to possible losses

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, [email protected]

Contact: Dr. Tam Garland, 979-845-3414, [email protected]

COLLEGE STATION – Extreme heat and dry conditions can lead to a shortage of grass, and an opportunity to consume toxic plants and forages found in Texas rangelands. Livestock producers should be aware of potential pitfalls, according to a Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory expert.

Dr. Tam Garland, head of the lab’s toxicology section in College Station, advises cattle producers to scout pastures and be on the lookout for four types of senna plants that can be toxic during different seasons and weather patterns: coffee senna, twinleaf senna, sicklepod senna and Lindheimer senna.

Of late, extremely high temperatures without rain have stressed grasses. Livestock try other plants that remain green, Garland said. Coffee senna is maturing and is still green, and Garland said cattle will find these more palatable as the fall season approaches.

“Just like humans, cattle will want variety in their diet and they find the coffee senna beans quite tasty as forages become less available,” she said.

The plant will have 6to 8-inch-long beans that grow upward rather than downward, forming a type of parenthesis around the center stalk of the plant.

Twinleaf senna will become more prevalent with frequent showers. Garland said this perennial plant will grow beside other weeds in the pasture.

“People think when they get rain they’ve got a lot grass in the pasture, but there are other weeds that can pop up,” Garland said. “This is typical of twinleaf senna
that is found growing in Central and West Texas regions where there’s limestone soils.”

Though herbicides applied to pastures earlier this year can control the threat of toxic forages and weeds, there’s still the potential for high winds to blow seeds into these areas.

“It’s still important for ranchers to scout pastures and be on the lookout,” Garland said. “The biggest problem is we don’t notice subtle clinical signs in our livestock, nor do we scout our pastures and look for these potentially toxic plants.”

Ranchers should observe their cattle. Those excreting dark urine and having  consumed coffee senna, and also twinleaf senna if there has been rain, will have clinical signs such as diarrhea and weakness before they get down.

“And when they get down, they do not get up,” Garland said. “That’s why it’s so important for daily observation of cattle and to scout pastures. These are what we call alert downers. They will eat and drink if food and water is taken to them, but they cannot get up.”

For more information about these and other toxic plants, Garland has co-authored Toxic Plants of Texas, available at the AgriLife Bookstore: http://www.agrilifebookstore.org/Toxic-Plants-of-Texas-p/b-6105.htm .

Additionally, the lab can determine if livestock have ingested one of these potentially deadly plants. For more information on testing, visit http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/tests/microscopic-analysis .

 

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Farm & Ranch

Mammals and Avian Influenza

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By Barry Whitworth, DVM

At the writing of this article, High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been detected in more than 83 million domestic poultry in the United States. The outbreak includes commercial and backyard flocks.

Most people are aware that poultry may succumb to Avian Influenza but may not know that other animals can be infected with the virus. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a variety of mammals have been infected with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the U.S.

The list of more than 200 mammals includes bears, foxes, skunks, coyotes, etc. Even marine animals such as dolphins and seals have been found with the virus. Current Avian Influenza H5N1 infections in poultry, mammals, and livestock in the U.S. can be found at the Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza website at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/livestock-poultry-disease/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-detections.

Recently, ruminants have been diagnosed with Avian Influenza H5N1 in the U.S. The World Organization for Animal Health reported that neonatal goats displaying neurological clinical signs and death were positive for Avian Influenza.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

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By Rayford Pullen | [email protected]

When May arrives, we start thinking about weed control. With two years of drought under our belts, grass grazed short and hay stocks depleted, what we do now will influence our forage conditions for the entire year. With 75 percent of our annual warm season forages made by July 15 in North Texas, we need to get the grass growing while the sun shines.

Speaking of the sun shining, the biggest deterrent to growing lots of grass is restricted sunlight, and the biggest sun blockers we have are weeds.

Have you noticed weeds are normally just slightly taller than your grass and are probably blocking 90 percent of the sunlight from reaching the grass itself? So obviously, we need to improve conditions, so sunlight reaches the plants we want to grow.

With grass extremely short, more sunlight is hitting the soil surface now, which in turn results in more weed seed germinating. With the moisture we have received, we expect an abundance of weeds this year.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Land Market Report: March Land Sales

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By Jared Groce

Rural land sales are continuing on a steady pace for early spring, with prices holding very strong with the sell-to-list price ratios remaining very high, even on properties that have been on the market for a longer than usual time period. The total number of transactions are picking up once again as the spring selling season kicks off, and the average acreage continues to decrease.

Larger acreage properties seem to be in higher demand than smaller properties currently, with many buyers simply parking cash in real estate to hedge against inflation. Interest rates seem to have settled down and most experts agree that rates will be reduced by the fed this year. Some lenders have programs in place that allow the buyer to reduce their rates without having to go through a full refinance ordeal.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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