Agriculture News: Toxic buttercup, cases of bloat popping up across the county

By Keenan Bishop Published:

We’ve been getting several calls and emails lately about a plant that’s found usually in disturbed areas, pastures or road ditches. While not new, it definitely is a weed when it’s in pastures and haylands.

You’re seeing it flowering now; it’s actually a pretty plant with glossy, bright yellow flowers. It’s the buttercup and tends to like low, wet places or overgrazed pastures.

Not only does it crowd out desirable species but all parts of the plant are toxic. This perennial generally isn’t a problem, as the plant is not palatable and even causes burning of the mouth when chewed. As a result, most animals avoid it unless forced to consume it.

Nevertheless, it can be a concern. I checked the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab’s “Animal health Risk Outlook” page at http://www.lddc.uky.edu/interactivemap.aspx, and found no recent poisonings (but did see several cases of bloat still being reported) in surrounding counties.

As I mentioned earlier, the whole plant is considered poisonous but the flowering stage contains more toxin than younger plants. So if you are the least bit concerned, that would be the best time to exclude livestock. The good news is it does take large quantities to be toxic. AGR-172 “Weed Management in Grass Pastures, Hayfields and Other Farmstead Sites” lists the herbicides and when to apply.

Bloat, as alluded to, is still showing up and UK’s livestock nutrition specialist, Dr. Lehmkuhler reiterated this fact earlier in the week. UK’s fact sheet, ID-186 “Managing Legume Induced Bloat in Cattle,” covers this topic. I’m still getting calls about abundant clover and Lehmkuhler stressed that the feed additives used to aid in reducing the risk to bloat must be consumed at the targeted levels every day.

Overcrowding around blocks, mineral feeders, etc., will prevent some cattle from obtaining their necessary amount. Also, the sudden heat has pushed cattle to seek shade. This heat will also slightly alter grazing patterns resulting in larger meal bouts and increased risk to bloat.

Moving the bloat blocks and mineral feeders near shade and water sources will encourage more consumption during this heat and may lower risk. Producers should use one block/five head or less to avoid overcrowding and increase opportunities for all cattle to consume the blocks or minerals. Placing some high quality grass hay near the shade areas will also stimulate greater consumption of hay to lower the risk of bloat.

For copies of the publications or more details contact the Extension Office at 695-9035.

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