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Acorn Poisoning could Cause Problems this fall

Livestock Update, October 2002

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

Cattle are moving to any place there is something to eat. Cattle will often head for woods and wooded lots around the farm in search of grazing or browse. However, that could be dangerous. Green acorns are plentiful this year. Hungry cattle love acorns that can quickly poison them. Green and ripe acorns contain gallotannins, which cause kidney damage and death. There does not seem to be as great a problem after a few hard freezes. The reduced palatability of acorns after weathering may be part of the answer.

To prevent acorn poisoning, cattle should be provided with supplemental feed and fenced out of areas with large amounts of oak trees until this winter. There are few other options as only a few pounds of acorns can cause enough damage to kill cattle. Outward signs of acorn poisoning are few but include weight loss and diarrhea, but often these are not noticed until other cattle in the herd have died.

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