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Plant Poisons

At last week’s TAP’s On day at Timboon P-12, Dr Zoe Vogels helped organise a fun CSI Timboon activity. It involved students working through stations to help “Farmer Bob” work out what had caused his two cows to suddenly die.

One of the stations was all about poisonous plants, with students trying to see if the plants in the pile of garden clippings could have been responsible. We thought it would be timely to remind people about the potential risks to stock as gardens are prepared for the festive season.

There are many plants that can be toxic to stock, but some are particularly nasty and kill animals quickly – there’s no time for treatment! For example:

  • Yew contains alkaloids that cause cardiac arrest – all parts are toxic except the berry flesh
  • Foxglove, oleander and mother of millions all contain cardiac glycosides. These increase the force of contraction of the heart, causing a heart attack. All parts are toxic. Oleander, in particular, is a known killer: just a couple of years ago one of our clients lost weaned heifers that had eaten the oleander clippings that a neighbour had thrown over the fence into their paddock (it only takes 5 leaves to kill a cow!).
  • Green cestrum contains a chemical that severely damages the liver – killing animals in hours to days. We’ve seen this poisoning in dry cows who had access to a cestrum plant.

So, have a look over the gardens both on your farm and on neighbouring fence lines. Don’t forget to check out paddocks where young and dry stock are kept, especially if you’re using them for the first time. If you’re not sure about a plant, take some photos: from a distance, and close ups of the leaves, flowers and/or berries and we can help you identify them.

If in doubt – don’t put garden clippings where stock can reach them