Locoweed (Astragalus and Oxytropis spp.)

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This page contains information regarding a plant "known to be poisonous" to goats as well as other animals. This information was researched from various resources. Please note, that the author is not a botanist or specialist regarding plants. This information is posted for your reference and comparison purposes only.

Locoweed - Click for a full size image Locoweed - Click for a full size image Locoweed - Click for a full size image Locoweed - Click for a full size image

White Point Loco, Woolly Loco, Spotted Loco, and Garboncillo.

As we obtain more specific information, we will list each plant separately with accompanying pictures and information. If you have pictures or information about about any of the plants listed above, please let us know as we would like to add it to the list.

Locoweed gets its name from the Spanish word loco (crazy) which is how the abnormal behavior of poisoned animals has been described. This "locoed" behavior results from locoweed-induced neurologic damage. Most of the time, animals become depressed and lethargic. Although some of the toxic effects resolve after animals are removed from infested areas, the neurologic damage may be permanent. Within several weeks, most livestock recover and begin to improve condition. As neurologic signs may unpredictably recur, working animals, especially horses have a very poor prognosis as they are of little value as saddle or draft animals. With chronic locoweed poisoning, livestock become emaciated and wasted as animals lose the ability to find, prehend and utilize feed. Although some may die of starvation, most die from misadventure. Other direct losses from abortions, birth defects, increased neonatal death, and increased susceptibility to other infectious diseases may also be high. Locoweeds are relatively palatable during spring and fall when they are green and associated forage is dry or dormant. The dry senescent stalks and are also palatable during the winter. Animals can be forced to eat locoweed at other times if desirable forage is not available. Animals are more susceptible to locoweed poisoning after they have once been affected.

Locoweed is found on foothills and semiarid regions. It grows in tufts or clumps, 8 to 30 cm high. Locoweed flowers resemble sweet peas. Blossoms may be blue, purple, yellow, or white. Each stem contains numerous leaves and a leaflet on its tip; leaves are pinnately compound.

Loco is poisonous at all stages of growth. Plants are dangerous throughout the year, even when they have matured and dried. All plant parts are toxic.

Horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and wildlife (elk, deer, antelope) are poisoned by eating locoweed. Signs of poisoning appear after 2 to 3 weeks of continuous grazing on the plant. Locoweed has four principal effects on livestock. These are: (1) neurological damage; (2) emaciation; (3) reproductive dysfunction and abortion; and (4) congestive right heart failure when grazed at high elevations.

High. With chronic locoweed poisoning, livestock become emaciated and wasted as animals lose the ability to find, prehend and utilize feed.

All classes of livestock including, goats, sheep, horses and cattle.

Depression, Dull dry hair coat, Eyes dull and staring, Irregular gait or some loss of muscular control, Weakness, Some animals show extreme nervousness, Loss of sense of direction, Withdrawal from other animals, Some animals develop inability to eat or drink, Abortions are common; hydrops may occur in some cattle, Skeletal malformations may occur, Animal may become violent if stressed, Reduced libido in males and altered estrous behavior in females, Cessation of spermatogenesis and oogenesis, Recumbency and death may follow prolonged consumption of locoweed, Vacuolation of neurons, renal tubular epithelium, hepatocytes, etc., Congestive heart failure when grazed at high elevations.

Restrict access to locoweed during critical periods when the plant is more palatable than associated forages. Maintain conservative stocking rates to avoid forcing animals to consume locoweed when desirable forage becomes limited. Remove animals that begin eating locoweed to prevent intoxication and to keep them from influencing others to start eating locoweed. No treatments have been identified that are effective in reversing or minimizing locoweed poisoning.

Locoweed can be controlled by spraying actively growing or budding plants with clopyralid (20-30 gm ae/Ac), picloram (250 gm ai/Ac), and metsulfuron (30 gm ai/Ac). If plants are scattered, treatment of individual plants or patches may be practical. Follow precautions when handling herbicides.

These plants are not likely to be incorporated into hay or other feeds, but if so, the toxins are likely to remain.

Animals should not be allowed to consume these plants. Offer small amounts of fresh grass or other safe plant material (depending on the species), or remove the plant from the pet's environment. Some pets do not "learn their lesson" and may return to chew on these plants. In these situations, it is best to remove the plant from the pet's environment.

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