Spring feed for Livestock
Be aware of what is healthy or poisonous vegetation for your animals
There’s groceries in them hills – for horses’ goats, cows and sheep.
But livestock owners should take a look before they let their animals munch. Not everything is safe for an animal’s lunch.
This spring has yielded luscious green vegetation throughout Chino Valley, Paulden and clear down to the desert.
From pretty purple filaree, to pea-pod-shaped local weed. Some of it is healthy for animals, but some of it owners need to avoid.
A number of local experts offered tips on how to recognize plants that are good livestock feed and the dangerous things to avoid.
Dr. Terry Miller and Dr. Mike Close of Circle L Animal Hospital in Chino Valley confirm that Filaree has healthy nutrients. Horses and cattle graze on the pretty purple flowering plants on the hillsides in Chino Valley and all around Yavapai County. However, when filaree dries up, it produces sharp little stickers. If the stickers hurt tender human feet, it’s easy to understand livestock avoiding the plant when it turns brown.
The American Heritage dictionary defines Filaree as having the original Spanish name, alfilaria or “pin clover,” that originated in Europe and has pink or purple flowers and finely divided leaves.
Bill Murphy, a cowboy and horseman from Skull Valley, has watched cattle for years, on ranges all around Yavapai County. He likes to see the filaree for the cattle and horse feed. Yet he had a warning from experience about the wrong time to turn cattle out on it.
“When cattle eat filaree on really damp ground, they pull up the roots and eat them,” Murphy said. “There were a lot of cattle killed by filaree near Wickenburg in 1964,” he said, adding, “Horses will swell up if they eat too much filaree and their sheath can also swell and cause urinary tract problems.”
The main plant to avoid on local pastures or horse trails from Chino Valley to Prescott or clear down to Cave Creek is loco weed.
It’s where the slang word of “loco” to denote “crazy” came from. Miller and Close confirm the dictionary description of fine, whitish gray leaves with white and purplish or pink flowers.
County Extension Agent Jim Schalau adds that it also has a pea shaped tiny pod. “I have loco weed in my yard in Prescott,” Schalau said. “It’s everywhere this season, but it’s not much of a problem because there’s a lot of other good feed around. It’s more of a problem with cattle, because when they get a taste of it they keep on eating it.”
All the veterinarians, the county agent, cowboys and ranchers agree that loco weed is deadly to horses.
Horse owners need to keep an eye out when letting their horses graze.
There is no treatment. Dr. Jack Sales says of loco weed on the “All About Horses” web site. He adds that symptoms of a horse that has eaten loco weed include a lack of coordination, sweating profusely and trembling.
“Most of what’s green in Chino Valley now, are weeds” Schalau said. “There is also a carpet of blue mustard, a small flowering plant that is not poisonous, while tansy mustard is. The tansy mustard has finely divided leaves and a small yellow flower on a tall single stock and it’s headed out right now.
“I don’t have horses, but I use my chickens to control some of the weeds in my yard,” Schalau said.
Murphy also noted that a lot of grasses will be coming out as it warms up more.
The rains have been a blessing. It just takes some observation before letting horses graze on the trail or turning them out in a new pasture. Everyone hopes the moisture will continue this spring and keep it green a little while longer.