Sheep And Poisonous Plants – What Plants Are Poisonous To Sheep

Sheep And Poisonous Plants – What Plants Are Poisonous To Sheep

By: Mary Ellen Ellis

If you keep a flock of sheep, whether big or small, puttingthem out to pasture is an essential part of each day. The sheep get to grazeand roam, doing what they do best. However, there are risks to your flock ifyou have plants that are bad for sheep in your pasture. Protect your sheep bylearning what common plants could harm them.

Plant Toxicity in Sheep

Any kind of livestock that goes out to pasture (includingurban and suburban areas) and grazes is at risk for finding plants poisonousfor sheep. The boundaries between rural and urban areas are blurring in someplaces, and this may put sheep at greater risk. Backyard sheep may encountertypes of plants they wouldn’t normally see in a pasture that could be harmfulto them.

With sheep and poisonous plants, it’s best to be proactive.Know the dangerous plants and remove them from the areas your sheep will graze.Also, look for signs of poor health and plant toxicity in sheep so you can getveterinary care as soon as possible.

Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Staying away from the rest of the flock
  • Keeping head down, apathy, fatigue
  • Acting confused
  • Drinking an excessive amount of water
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Bloating

What Plants are Poisonous to Sheep?

Plants poisonous for sheep may be lurking in your pastures,around the edges of fields, along fence lines, and in your landscaping orgarden beds. Some examples of toxic plants you may be using intentionally forlandscape and garden areas include:

  • Iris
  • Holly
  • Morning glory
  • Rhubarb
  • Cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage and broccoli)
  • Yew
  • Oak
  • Oleander
  • Wild cherry
  • Mountain laurel
  • Lantana

Plants more likely to be found in a pasture that could bedangerous to your sheep include:

  • Milkweed
  • Locoweed
  • Lambsquarters
  • Snakeroot
  • St. John’s wort
  • Flax
  • Birdsfoot trefoil
  • Bracken fern
  • Black locust
  • Pokeweed
  • Common nightshade
  • Arrowgrass
  • False hellebore
  • Common ragwort

Keeping your pasture clear of toxic plants is important forthe health of your flock. If you notice signs of toxicity, contact yourveterinarian immediately. Search for the plant that likely caused the symptomsso you can provide more information to help with the sheep’s care.

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How Toxic are Euphorbias, Really?

Euphorbias are on all the toxic plant lists and everyone is familiar with the hazards of Poinsettias. But how do these plants really match up with the thousands of other toxic plants out there? Are they really the dangerous thugs they are made out to be? This article will discuss this from my somewhat subjective point of view.

Euphorbiaceae is one of the largest of the plant families and includes many thousands of plants found all over the world. Of these, a small fraction have found their way into cultivation, partly thanks to the amazing variety and ornamental appeal of many of its members. Some of these are among the most unusual, weird, beautiful and easy-to-grow plants in my garden.

Euphorbias typically produce a white, milky sap, called latex, that is relatively irritating to us humans. It is, however, quite useful to the plants themselves. One of the reasons these plants are so easy to grow is these saps have some degree of antifungal and antibacterial activity, which probably keeps them from getting infected easily in cases of injury. And the saps act as excellent wound sealants. Cuttings of these plants often self seal with this latex which I find useful- saves on antifungal powders, and these plants can often be rerooted right away thanks to their latex healing the cut site almost immediately. And of course the latex presumably repels would-be predators that are looking for a plant meal, from insects to large vegetarian mammals. So from the plant's point of view, this sap is a good thing.

Two species of Euphorbia in my yard, cut to show the oozing latex sap that flows through this plant like blood

Acalypha reptans, Miniature Firetail (photo htop) on left (or top) is a Euphorbia relative. Many Acalyphas have toxic, white latex saps This Croton on the right (or bottom) is another member of the Euphorbiaceae and though not always sappy, it is also toxic (not highly).

These two Jatropha species are among some of the more common Jatrophas grown in cultivation. Left is Jatropha gossypifolia and right is Jatropha podagrica (sometimes called a miniature bottle tree). Both have toxic saps containing phorbol esters and are members of the family Euphorbiaceae

Unlike most other Euphorbiaceaes, Jatrophas tend to have clearish saps (Jatropha malaphensis on the left) The Synadenium grantii on the right is now considered to be in the genus Euphorbia (Euphorbia compacta) and its common name is Dead Man's Tree. It has very irritating white latex saps and is quick to ooze them with minimal provocation. This is a great plant for my garden, but it is one a am somewhat careful about handling so I get the minimum skin and clothing exposure to the saps.

These two Monadeniums (also recently swallowed up into the genus Euphorbia) share the toxic white latex within. Euphorbia kimberlyana on left and Euphorbia reflexa on the right.

Manihot grahmii is one of my favorite trees. It is in the Euphorbia family as well, but does not have such toxic sap, though it is a moderately toxic plant. It is commonly called a Tapioca Tree, I assume because somehow non-toxic tapioca is made from part of it somehow (probably not this same species)

Maybe I'm crazy to think about collecting and planting Euphorbias, particularly in a garden which sees its share of visitors, not to mention one frequented by my own pets. When compared to a REALLY toxic plant like Nerium oleander, a truly deadly toxic plant that is as ubiquitous as Euphorbias are, and planted without discretion all over my state, frequently in public places, Euphorbias simply pale in comparison. Oleander is not only deadly toxic if ingested, but well known as an irritant if handled (sometimes with worse consequences than one may experience with Euphorbia contact), and even burning this plant can create a deadly toxic and extremely irritating smoke. THIS is a plant that should dominate toxic plant lists. Another baddy is Ricinis communis (Castor Bean) page, a truly deadly toxic plant, also commonly grown as an exotic (and a common weed in my area). Conium maculatum (Poison Hemlock) is another one that makes Euphorbias seem like candy. Still, the focus is often on Euphorbias (particularly the hapless Poinsettia). what about Plumeria? Ever cut a Plumeria and had the sap drip into your eye. or get it on your skin? It is basically similar to Euphorbia sap, only most seem to know that Euphorbias have noxious sap. Not so with Plumerias. Caution. It can blind you, it is toxic to chew on and the sap can burn your skin.

Oleander is one of the deadiest plants on this planet, far and away more dangerous than any Euphorbia species I argue. One leaf of this can kill a child if eaten. Nasty stuff. Yet planted everywhere.

Here is just one of hundreds of street plantings of Oleander in the Los Angeles area. I estimate there is enough Oleander growing in Southern California to kill off the human race ten times over.

Caster Bean weeds in Los Angeles- top ten most toxic plants

Poison hemlock (photo kennedyh) on left- another top 10 toxic plant Plumeria (right- photo Chris Mankey) toxicity potential seems to be always overlooked.

Anyway, most all the toxic plant lists are extremely long, with little if any objective comments on degrees of toxicity, and Euphorbias are just one of the many of a long list of ‘heavys' in the plant world. Had they not included hundreds of the most fascinating, bizarre and ornamental plants one can grow, I doubt I would really care all that much that this genus gets such a bad rap. But it is one of my favorite genera and I have dozens upon dozens of great plants from all over the world in this genus both in the garden and in pots all over the garden. Yet here I still stand, living and in one piece despite my well known clumsiness and carelessness concerning all plants in my collection. Am I lucky, or are these really the evil plants they are made out to be?

Just two of the hundreds upon hundreds of cool Euphorbias one can collect (left, or top, are grafted crested Euphorbia lacteas, and right, or bottom, is a grafte bizzare species, Euphorbia piscidermis)

The plant on the left is a classic specimen species, aptly named, I suppose, Euphorbia poissonii right is a lacy, pink and white ornamental garden shrub, Euphorbia xantyi.

Two more of my favorite species to collect and grow, Euphorbia vallida (left) and Euphorbia characias 'Tasmanian Tiger' (right)

Here is a link to a cautionary article already published on this subject: http://www.theamateursdigest.com/epoisons.htm

This article is basically a list of various Euphorbia species (mostly African) and about their well known toxic principles (most about skin and eye irritation) as well as medical uses (purgative, cathartic, etc.) followed by a serious of personal bad experiences with Euphorbias. There is some discussion of severe toxic principles of Tylecodons I did not understand as these are in no way related to Euphorbias or in the Euphorbia family. Though the article is fairly long, it is filled with very few facts and is primarily anecdotal. I wonder if there is such an article about Poison Oak or Poison Ivy. I have personally had experiences with the former and it was far more unpleasant than any Euphorbia reaction I have ever had.

Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) has been my own personal bane in the past (photo by Kelli)

I am not going to say that Euphorbias do not have any dangerous principles. They all have the infamous milky, latex sap that is variably irritating when contacted to skin and extremely irritating when gotten on mucous membranes or in the eye. Orally it is also quite irritating and conceivably quite toxic if one should actually ingest enough of it (though why that situation would occur I have no idea). The toxic principles in most Euphorbia saps are phorbol esters. These are compounds that can cause irritation, vomiting and even, over chronic exposure, tumor production (I doubt this last toxic principle is a big concern with most gardeners as few would be careless enough to be repeatedly exposed to these saps after a few bad experiences). Interestingly some phorbol ester derivatives are known for their antitumor activity.

Probably one of the primary concerns most alarmists point out is the lack of public knowledge about Euphorbia sap's irritant qualities. Euphorbias are such a diverse plant group that it is sometimes hard to believe all these different looking plants are related and that all of them, despite their very different appearances, have this toxic sap in them. Additionally there are many hundreds of plants in the family Euphorbiaceae which are not even in this same genus that most of these also share this toxic sap. So it is not always easy to know what plants have toxic sap and which don't. Personally, I don't rub any plant's saps in my eyes or put it in my mouth as I have discovered toxic and irritating saps are certainly not unique to the Euphorbia genus or family (some Agaves have toxic saps, Crassulaceas as well, many Ficus (Fig) species, and as mentioned already, so do Plumerias). I have gotten hundreds of species of Euphorbia sap on my skin and though I have gotten some rashes that burn (worst is when I get some on my lips) none of my personal experiences come close to matching my visit to the hospital after contacting poison oak. But the name Poison Oak perhaps makes the resulting needed medical attention less of an unexpected event.

Euphorbias come in all shapes and sizes -Euphorbia ammak hybrid left, over forty feet tall and Euphorbia anoplia (right) only five inches tall

Some of the most unusual plants, the medusoid Euphorbias (left, or above, Euphorbia esculenta in flower and right,or below, Euphorbia flanaganii, a common garden outlet species, showing sap oozing from a cut 'branch') are among my favorite species to collect.

Some Euphorbias are leafy, shrubby, spineless plants (Euphorbia atropurpurea left or above and Euphorbia lambii right or below)

and some Euphorbias are among the most noxious, spiny plants there are (Euphorbia atrispina left, and Euphorbia pseudocactus 'Zig Zag' I am hold a cutting of on the right. I am far more concerned about the spines on this plant than any sap that might ooze out the cut surface)

Some Euphorbias a spherical, fascinating lumps (Euphorbia gymnocalycioides- left), while others are intensely spiney, filamentous plants (Euphorbia baioensis-right)

There is also some variability in the Euphorbia sap's toxicity from species to species with some only being mildly irritating (such as the case with Poinsettias, always present on everyone's toxic plant lists for some reason) to extremely irritating (such as with Pencil Cacti, Euphorbia tirucali, which are the plants I handle with the most care in this genus). Additionally there is a wide degree of personal sensitivity to these saps with some people getting the mildest rashes while others experience extremely unpleasant sensations and having to seek medical attention for their rashes.

Euphorbia tirucali is my least favorite Euphorbia in terms of sap production- it is an aggressive latex-oozer.

There is no doubt that this is a sap you do NOT want in your eye, but then there are few plants in the garden you do want in your eye and I argue this is not the most dangerous of them. I have gotten some Euphorbia sap in my own eyes after getting sufficient sap on my hands and then rubbing my eyes. It hurt and was quite irritating indeed. But I had a far worse reaction when some sap from a Plumeria I was pruning dripped in my eye- I thought I was going to go blind! It hurt for days and since then I read people can go blind with this sap in their eyes. Getting Plumeria sap in one's eye is a relatively likely scenario as one often has to prune these trees. I find it a good idea to avoid anything plant-like getting in my eyes from now on. I recommend using goggles if one is likely to be in a situation where plant material can get in ones eyes (every try pruning a tree fern? Wear goggles!).

Plumeria are among the most attractive flowers I grow, but beware when cutting the canes, if well watered. sap is similar to Euphorbia sap!

Thousands of plants have thorns which can, and do, do a lot more ocular damage than most Euphorbia saps. Perhaps there should be plant lists with warnings about spiny plants? Since Euphorbias are really rarely eaten, even by pets and children (since they are so noxious tasting) it seems their primary dangers are in being touched inappropriately. But what of plants with other unseen dangers. like hidden spines, sharp edges or falling seed pods? How many species of palms are there with stiff, needle-like spines that I have been stabbed with hundreds of times, just lucky my eyes have not been selected targets (yet). What of the extremely irritating but unseen spines in dried Echium flowers I unhappily discovered when removing them from the yard? Those took weeks to remove and they flew about in the air like so much harmless dust. I think there s hould there be warnings about these plants, too? It would be interesting to discover how many people have gone blind from being poked in the eye from a plant compared to the number that have gone blind from Euphorbia exposure. I personally know two people who have lost eye sight from spiny plants but so far I have no personal knowledge of blindness from Euphorbia exposure (though I have no doubt those unfortunate people are out there). So yes Euphorbias have somewhat 'dangerous' saps. but then so do dozens of other plants, and so on. Euphorbias really don't compare much to the real dangerous plants in the plant world.

I think these two plants are far more dangerous in my yard than are any Euphorbias. Left is a larger Phoenix with deadly leaf base spines, and even the regular leaflets are sharp enough to easily puncture an eye ball. Right is a beautiful Echium wildprettii (Tower of Jewels). but when it dies, the miniature spines on the dead flower stalk fill the air like glass dust and are incredibly irritating. you need gloves and goggles to handle this plant!

And really how toxic is this Euphorbia sap after all? How many deaths have been recorded from ingesting Euphorbias or related plants? Who on earth would purposely ingest such an irritating substance? Who, after ingesting it, would be able to keep from vomiting it up? This is the main reason I do not concern myself about growing Euphorbias in my yard around my dogs. Dogs eat everything as very little seems to taste bad to a dog. just ‘different'. Yet no dog would willingly eat enough Euphorbia to get very ill from it or not vomit it up. I could find no mention of canine or feline deaths from eating Euphorbias in my internet searches, despite Euphorbia's extremely common presence in many yards and collections. I could find few fatality discussions about goat or cattle, either, and they eat all sorts of toxic plants that kill them. There are incidences of sheep dying from eating Euphorbias growing among their pasture plants but no comments about how much Euphorbia it took to kill these sheep. An article published by the Washington State University listed 40 toxic plants, most of which have caused human deaths in this country, listed only one Euphorbia and listed it last, stating it was only mildly poisonous (no deaths). And in some parts of the world, some wildlife normally eat Euphorbias as part of their normal diet, apparently with little negative consequences. So really Euphorbias aren't all that dangerous even if eaten, though as you can see, actually getting eaten is a rare experience for most Euphorbias (however, insects seem immune to many Euphorbias and happily chew holes in some of my nicer plants!)

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are on all the toxic plant lists are really are one of the least toxic of all the 'toxic' plants there are.

Surprisingly the literature is full of remedies made from Euphorbia saps, most involving native peoples who have treated everything under the sun almost with just about every plant concoction they can think of. I guess given time people will try eating everything in their environment hoping to discover some good outcome from their experimentation, including eating Euphorbias. The Chinese, which have tried just about everything, use Euphorbias to treat edema, to get rid of parasites, constipation, lymphadenitis and cirrhosis. It has also been used in holistic medicine to treat diarrhea (interesting that it also helps with constipation?), hair re-growth, asthma, promoting milk let-down, ulcers, venereal diseases (one species I grow in my garden is named for this property) and impotency. Other sites list Euphorbias as a treatment for epilepsy, coughing, cancers, fungal infections, wart removal and rashes (which I find ironic). One species has been found to contain a chemical that is has a powerful anti-inflammatory. And lastly it has been frequently used as an emetic, which does not surprise me one bit, as any time my dogs have tried to nibble on these plants (a rare occurrence), that has been their standard reaction.

Euphorbia antisyphylitica, historically has been used to treat the diseases it got is scientific name for. To me it is just a bizzare ornamental

Euphorbia resnifera is another great looking ornamental, but also now subject of much medicinal research

Though there are thousands of species of Euphorbias, and many more species in related families, all which probably contain these irritating saps, I have only personal experiences with several hundred of these plants. From my point of view, it is their thorns which I am far more careful of as many of them are quite thorny and sharp. Over the years I have had far more injuries due to Euphorbia thorns than from the evil saps within. But I still use some degree of caution when cutting or bumping into certain ‘sappy' species and try not to get the sap on my lips and eyes since I know it can be painful. But here I am today living breathing proof that these plants are not quite as hazardous as some might make them out to be. I wish the same could be said for my outfits, many which have had to be discarded from the permanent damage done to them by getting the latex saps on them. Now THAT would be something I would like to see on a warning label for Euphorbias! Do NOT get this sap on your clothing! It can cause permanent staining that will cause you to spend additional money on replacement outfits.

Cutting Euphorbias always ends up gumming up my tools. this, and clothing damage, are among the cautions I am most concerned about when dealing with my own Euphorbias.

For more perspective on Euphorbias and their dangers, read one of my other articles here:

For some discussion of toxic plants, see this article:


Common Poisonous Plants

Many of the following plants are commonly seen in the landscape. For photos and identification tips, visit the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants database or view the presentation "Poisonous Plants in Pastures."

If you are unsure about the identity of a pasture plant, you can always have your county's UF/IFAS Extension agent confirm the plant specimen.

All parts are toxic. The toxins affect the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include nausea, weakness, salivating. Death is rare.

Bracken Fern

All parts are toxic, particularly the roots. In horses, the toxin causes vitamin B1 deficiency, which leads to a high fever and lack of coordination. In cows, the fern causes hemorrhaging with swelling and bloody waste as symptoms. Sheep and goats are less susceptible.

Poisoning usually occurs over multiple exposures, not all at once. Animals usually eat bracken fern during the summer when seeking shaded environments.

Cherry (Prunus sp.)

There are many different species of cherry and all are toxic. These plants are common around pastures since the seeds are easily spread by birds. Cherry produces cyanide in the leaves.

Cherry, Black

All parts are extremely toxic, but wilted leaves are the most toxic. The tree contains cyanide, and all animals are susceptible, especially ruminants. Symptoms included staggering or convulsions within 15–30 minutes of ingestion death occurs within one hour.

Coffee Senna

All parts are toxic, but mainly the seeds. Wasting or dark brown urine are symptoms of poisoning large quantities must be ingested for symptoms to appear. Poisoning is most common in the fall after frost since coffee senna will remain green after bahiagrass and bermudagrass go dormant.

Crotalaria (Rattlebox)

The whole plant is poisonous, the seeds in particular. Weakness, confusion, and jaundice from liver damage can occur. Animals may die months after eating crotalaria.

This plant has a high toxicity. It is often found along fence lines and stables.

This ornamental is often grown in Florida gardens, but has escaped into natural areas. It can be found along fencerows and tree lines.

The whole plant is toxic. Large quantities cause acute toxicity, while smaller amounts cause mouth sores and skin cracking.

The berries are the main poisonous part of this plant, the leaves less so. Green berries are particularly toxic. Symptoms include acute toxicity, progressive unthriftiness (failure to put on weight), and gastric distress.

Nightshade is unpalatable to animals, so they will rarely eat enough to cause death.

Perilla Mint

The whole plant, especially the flowers, is toxic. Poisoning incidents are more common in the fall when the plant is flowering. Poisoning symptoms include labored breathing.

Perilla is usually found in shady areas around forest edges and farm buildings. It can be recognized by its mint-like odor.

Red maple can cause a blood disorder that leaves an animal sick for an extended period. Like cherry, wilted leaves are the most toxic.

Other plants involved in reported poisonings or deaths of pets and livestock (including sheep and goats, poultry, rabbits, dogs, cats, cattle, and horses):


Managing pastures for sheep

The pasture (or range) resource is often the most neglected part of the sheep enterprise, yet it usually provides the majority of nutrients to the stock. Pasture that is properly managed has the potential to minimize feed costs and increase profits. Pasture is the most natural diet for sheep and other ruminant animals. Though pasture is not without its own risks, fewer digestive problems are usually encountered when sheep and lambs spend the majority of their time grazing.

Pasture plants
A pasture can be comprised of many different kinds of plants. Which species to plant depends upon the purpose of the pasture, the climate, and soil type. Soil survey maps can help with the latter. The best pastures usually contain a mixture of grasses and legumes. Commercial pasture mixes usually contain several grass and legumes and sometimes forbs.

Cool season grasses
In many climates, cool season grasses form the basis of most sheep pastures. Cool season grasses are annual or perennial plants that begin growth during the fall or winter and grow to spring or early summer. Cool season grasses are not damaged by sub-freezing temperatures. However, they go mostly dormant during hot weather. Common cool season grasses include orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, timothy, reed canarygrass, ryegrass, brome grasses, and wheat grasses.

Tall fescue
Tall fescue is the most important cool season grass in the United States. Most tall fescue is infected with a fungal endophyte that reduces performance in grazing animals and causes reproductive problems in horses. Sheep appear to be less affected by the endophyte than cattle and horses. Animal performance is superior on endophtye-free fescue, but plant persistance suffers. MaxQ™ tall fescue contains a non-toxic endophyte which improves animal performance while maintaining plant performance.

Tall fescue is the most desirable grass to stockpile for late fall and winter grazing. Unlike the summer forage, fall-saved fescue is palatable and high in digestibility. Forage quality losses after frost are less for fescue than other forages. Endophyte toxicity of stockpiled fescue declines with time.

Legumes
Legume plants are known for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Legumes have a higher protein content than grasses. They fall into two classes: forage and grain. Forage legumes include alfalfa, clovers, birdsfoot trefoil, lespedezas, Sunn hemp, and vetch. Grain legumes include beans, peas, lupins, kudzu, and peanuts. Pasture legumes improve summer pasture productivity.

Legume pastures (alfalfa and clover) are also a common cause of bloat. The phytoestrogens contained in some pasture legumes (e.g. red clover) can cause a decline in ewe fertility. Newer cultivars have greatly reduced this risk.

Sericea lespedeza
The high tannin content of sericea lespedeza gives it an anitiparasitic effect. Fecal egg counts tend to be lower among small ruminants grazing sericea lespedeza pastures, as adult worms lay fewer eggs and the eggs that are produced have reduced hatching ability. Though it shows great promise for helping to control internal parasites in sheep and goats, sericea lespedeza is classified as a noxious weed in some states.

Warm season grasses
Warm season grasses are annual or perennial plants that begin growth during the spring, and grow to summer or fall until frost. Common warm season grasses include bahiagrass, bermuda grass, crabgrass, eastern gamagrass, big bluestem, indiangrass, switchgrass, sudangrass, and pearl millet. Most native grasses are warm season grasses. Sheep have generally not performed as well on warm season grasses as cattle. Warm season annuals are usually favored for sheep.

Annuals
An annual is a plant that completes its life cycle in one year. Annuals must be planted every year in order to produce forage for livestock feed. Summer annuals complete their life cycle between spring and fall. Summer annuals include crabgrass, pearl millet, sorghum, sudangrass, and sorghum x sudangrass. Winter annuals complete their life cycle between fall and spring. Winter annuals include wheat, barley, winter oats, rye, and triticale (rye x wheat).

Brassicas
Brassicas are annual crops which can be grazed by sheep. They include rape, kale, swede, and turnips. They are most commonly used to extend the grazing season. Performance on brassicas is improved if dry hay is offered. Lamb performance on brassicas varies.

Small grains

When properly managed, small grain crops can be used for grazing by sheep and other livestock. Small grains can provide excellent pasture in the fall and early spring. The effect of livestock grazing on small grain yields ranges from yield reductions to increases in yield.

Forbs
Forbs are non-grasslike, non-woody, flowering herbaceous plants. Forbs are commonly called weeds. They may be classified as annual or perennial, warm season or cool season. When grazing a mixed sward, sheep prefer forbs. Sheep's preference for forbs makes them well-suited to landscape management.

Browse
Browse includes buds, twigs, leaves, fruit and flowers of woody plants (trees and shrubs). While sheep will eat varous browse species, goats are best known for choosing these types of plants.

Crop residues
Crop residues are the materials left in a field after the crop has been harvested. Residues include stalks and stubble, leaves, and seed pods. Crop residues offer a low-cost feeding alternative for sheep, while sheep grazing helps to control pests by disrupting insect life cycles.

Pasture Establishment
Planning for a successful pasture establishment should begin months in advance. It can take years to correct severe soil acidity. If lime is needed, it should be applied six to 12 months prior to seeding.

Different seeding methods can be used to establish a pasture: drilling, cultipacking, and broadcasting. No-tillage involves using herbicides to kill the existing vegetation and then seeding directly into the residue. The seed bed is usually prepared by hay removal or hard grazing

The best time to establish cool season grasses is in the late summer and early fall. Spring plantings have enough moisture for seed germination, but weed pressure is high. Warm season grasses should be planted in late spring to early summer after the soil temperature has reached 65°F or above. Seeding rates depend upon the plant species and seeding method. Certified seed is recommended.

Legume seed may need to be innoculated with the proper bacterial strain. New seedings should not be grazed until the plants have developed sufficient root systems. If you can easily pull a plant from the ground, its root system is not sufficiently developed.

Pasture Renovation
Pasture renovation is when you "renew" a pasture by introducing a desired forage species into the existing plant stand. It should be done on a regular basis, as most legumes tend to be short-lived in a pasture. Overgrazing, poor fertility, and other adverse conditions tend to favor grass plants over legumes.

Frost seeding is a common method of pasture renovation. This is when seed is broadcast into existing pastures during the late winter or early spring when the soil freezes at night, but thaws during the day.

Pasture Maintenance
Maintaining a pasture is similar to maintaining a car. If you want good, long-term performance of your pasture, you need to take steps to properly maintain it. Soil sampling a minimum of every three years is a must. Lime and fertilizer should be applied according to soil test results. Excess lime can cause mineral deficiencies. Excess fertilizer pollutes ground water.

Pastures which are composed of predominantly grass plants should receive nitrogen fertilizer every year. There are numerous sources of inorganic and organic nitrogen. Sheep grazing pastures fertilized with poultry litter or pig manure may be at increased risk for copper toxicity. Pasture which contain 30 percent or more legumes usually do not require nitrogen fertilization.

Broadleaf weeds can be controlled with herbicides and mowing. Controlled grazing and proper soil pH will also help to surpress weed growth.

Poisonous plants
Numerous plants can be poisonous to sheep. Toxicity usually depends upon the growing conditions and stage, plant part, and amount consumed. As a general rule, sheep usually avoid poisonous plants. Problems arise when desirable forages are scarce and poisonous plants are abundant.

The effects produced by the ingestion of poisonous plants are extremely variable and depend upon the poison consumed in the plant. Some poisonous plants cause rapid death. Others produce gastro-enteritis or cause nervous symptoms or locomotion problems. Treatment is usually unrewarding.


Late updated 03-Sep-2020 by Susan Schoenian.
Copyright© 2020. Sheep 101 and 201.


Plants Toxic to Animals

Information on this website is about plants poisonous to people. Do notuse the plant lists on this site to learn about safe or toxic plants for animals. Some links are provided below on plants poisonous to animals.

Pets, especially cats and dogs, frequently ingest plants. If a plant is known to be hazardous to humans, it may be toxic to animals as well. However, some animals and birds may safely eat plants that are unsafe for humans.

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Watch the video: How to Grow or Contain a Purslane Plant. .