pine causes abortions in cattle and goats?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Paul Wheaton, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,443
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    missoula, montana
    So we're setting up a new paddock for our cattle (4 highland heifers, a highland bull plus a dairy cow plus a steer). And we're talking about moving the goats to a new paddock. I want them to have plenty of access to brush. I think they might supplement their hay with nibbling on brush. My wife says that we shouldn't put them in with pine trees because two of the scotties are preggers and all of the goats except the buck are preggers. They would abort!

    ??? Huh?

    She says that one of our neighbors lost a calf a couple of years ago and the neighbor said that the reason was that the mamma ate pine needles. She went on to say that another neighbor had the same problem.

    I said, "Maybe she wasn't feeding enough hay and the animals got hungry."

    We came back to the house and she looked it up in a book where it said just a few pine needles can cause a cow to abort.

    But it seems like cows hang out with pine trees all the time! I grew up on a farm seeing calves being born next to pine trees.

    Can anybody offer some clarity here? I want to do right by my animals, but if this is true, it really throws a wrench in the works for me.
     
  2. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,569
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    CHINA
    It hasnt been the case with my goats...I feed them Christmas trees as treats afteer the holiday...they eat needle and bark and they are still pregnant every winter for 4 years now. I give them the long white pine needles to if they blown down off some very large old trees in the yard...they wont eat them when orange...

    My calf would eat maple leaves, fir and ferns the goats wouldnt touch in the summer but he was kind of dumb compared to the goats :eek: He lived outside for 6 months...now he lives in the freezer according to my 3yo daughter.

    Hungry animals may pose a problem with this...most goats pick and choose over the course of the day....cattle just seem to eat whats in front of them??
     

  3. Newgirl

    Newgirl New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2005
    I have an aunt that currently has over 50 goats and refuses to let them near pine trees for the same reason. she rarely loses any and often has twins and triplets so i suppose it works for her. However I'm not sure if there is scientific proof our if it's just an old wive's tale. :)
     
  4. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,223
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    OlyPen
    Wow, that's a new one on me. I've seen lots of goats around pine trees without a problem. My goats nibble spruce boughs without a problem.

    Lupine and false hellbore cause abortions, so make sure you don't have any of that around either.
     
  5. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    Paul,

    Pine needle abortion (PNA) in cattle can lead usually occurs in the last 3 months of the pregnancy, and they can start aborting a couple days after eating the needles. Sometimes the calves are born alive, but small and very weak, and the cows will not clean and sometimes suffer paralysis. I think it is Ponderosa pine that causes the problem, but am not 100% sure if othere pine species can do it.

    Best way to guard against PNA is to fence them away from the pine stands; feed adequately so the cattle aren't browsing (a lot of times the ground will be clear under the pine trees and they'll try to eat the grass there and pick up needles.), and give plenty of space to cattle for feeding.

    There's something in the needles (isocupressic acid - no idea if that is spelled right) that is the toxin, but they think there might be other toxins in the needles as well, and I guess the level of this toxin varies quite a bit.

    Lots of different plants can cause abortion in cattle: locoweed, poison hemlock, johnsongrass, goldenrod, broomweed, sub clover ...
     
  6. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

    Messages:
    6,104
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2004
    Location:
    Wyoming
    What???

    Before the fire, my place was 75% ponderosa pine and grandpa had no trouble with cattle on it.

    My neighbor runs over a 100 head of cattle and has no problem. His place is still over 50% ponderosa pine.

    Just doesn't add up to me.
     
  7. chas

    chas Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    549
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    western pa
    No trouble with spruce, larch, white or scotch pines on my dads reclaimed strip mine pasture. No abortions or small or weak calves.He has 20 plus acres of them since the 60 s.
     
  8. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    Guys, the cattle don't abort from being "around" pine trees, they've gotta be eating a decent quantity -- 4-5 lbs. plus per day -- of the needles during the last third of their gestation period. It's been common knowledge for over 50 years that if you see abortions late in the gestation period for no apparent reason and cattle have had access to Ponderosa pine browse, that might explain the abortions.

    I've read in a beef magazine that Jeff pine and California juniper have been found to contain this toxin as well.
     
  9. Mr. Dot

    Mr. Dot Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2002
    Location:
    Rocky Topo
    I can't speak for cattle as I have never kept them but my goats not only nibble pine trees - I feed them saplings every day. I haven't had any problems with my pregnant does aborting. Knock (pine) wood.
    A quick google search seems to indicate there is something to this regarding cattle though.
     
  10. miclew

    miclew Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    249
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Rural Georgia
    My goats devour pine needles and pine bark left and right and I have never had a problem. I have always heard that pine needles are high in Vit C and good for them.

    I have heard that OAK is bad for goats!

    michele
     
  11. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    363
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2004
    Location:
    Land of the Long White Cloud
    According to what Ive been told by dairy farmers it is Cupressus macrocarpa which can cause abortion in cows in the first trimester. Pinus radiata is fine.
     
  12. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

    Messages:
    6,104
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2004
    Location:
    Wyoming
    Called all my old buddies I could think of that raise cattle in ponderosa areas. Out of the 7 that I talked to only 1 had ever heard this before. They are all in families that have been ranching for over 50 years with herds ranging from 150 to 750. Common Knowledge, sorry but no.

    The one that had heard it before told me not to worry about it. You would have to stave the animals with no other feed available for them to eat enough to make them abort.
     
  13. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    White Wolf,

    I wouldn't worry about it either if I was feeding them adequate hay, but since it sounded like Paul was hoping they'd get a fair amount of their ration from tree browse, then I'd say it might be a concern for the cattle.

    I'm not going to argue about whether it's widely known, but post this in the cattle forum and I'll guarantee you'll get responses who've heard of it. Look it up in Merck

    My Dad spent about 20 years working on or running cattle ranches in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, and they'd heard about it late in the 1920s.
     
  14. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,443
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    missoula, montana
    We plan on continuing to give them plenty of hay twice a day until the grasses start to come on.

    We figure the scotties will want to browse on everything in addition to the hay/grass. We have a lot of buckbrush too.

    So it sounds like we'll be fine: just make sure they have plenty of hay or fresh grass.
     
  15. horselogger

    horselogger Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    181
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    a covered wagon crossing america
    the issue isn't pine neeedles..the issue is the fact that they are being forced to eat whatever they can find ,up to and including pine needles..... See that they have enough hay and you won't have any problem
     
  16. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,854
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    If pine needles were adverse to cattle there would not be any cattle in the South, east of of the Mississippi. I can understand cattle forced to eat pine needles in order to survive instead of having adequate forage could have a nutrient problem with catastrophic results.
     
  17. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    I have never heard of this, but there aren't too many pine trees out here. We do have some that happen to be located in the winter grounds, where the cows are in their last trimester. Never had a problem, but I don't doubt the accuracy of the reports.

    Google it up and it's all right there.

    Jena