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Poisonous plants contain toxins that generally have a bitter taste in order to keep the plant from being consumed. The animals are “trained” to avoid toxic plants by learning to recognize the smell or taste associated with the toxin. Fortunately, most healthy, well-fed animals will not eat toxic plants if they have access to good quality forage.
Livestock owners should learn to recognize toxic plants, and be aware of the symptoms they can cause. The level of concern should be the greatest when:
Plant poisoning can be difficult to diagnose, since symptoms can range from mild irritation to death. The severity of poisoning depends on how toxic the plant is and how much was eaten.
Almost every pasture contains some poisonous plants, or is bordered by trees or shrubs that are toxic. While it is not always possible to eliminate all of the plants that may be toxic, there are several ways of managing the plants and animals to reduce the possibility of poisoning:
by Donna L. Foulk, Equine Natural Resources Educator
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