Farm Animals » Acorn Poisoning in sheep

Julie

Acorn Poisoning in sheep

My sheep graze a paddock containing several oak trees which are currently shedding thousands of acorns. I know acorns are toxic but how many would a sheep need to eat to become seriously ill - a few, hundreds?? I usually send in the pigs to clear up the acorns before allowing the sheep to graze but haven't been able to organise it this year. Some sheep seem to develop a craving for acorns whereas others ignore them - in the event of poisoning will the sheep recover if removed from the source or does the toxin remain in their systems forever like ragwort?

27/9/06

Answer this question
stuart stuart

Contrary to popular belief pigs are susceptible to acorn/oak poisoning. They are however less susceptible than ruminants to the toxic effects of tannic and gallic acids that are produced following the ingestion of acorns. These cause severe irritation of the intestinal mucosa and damage the kidney causing severe renal necrosis and chronic interstitial nephritis.
Death is caused through dehydration circulatory collapse or kidney failure.
If the animal survives the acute episode then some of the damage to the bowel and kidney will repair but the tubules of the kidney once gone have gone for good and death from chronic kidney failure will result. In this respect there is a similarity to the effects of ragwort save that the toxins in ragwort permanently damage the liver rather than the kidney.
You are right in your observation that some animals will develope a craving for the cause of their poisoning (rather like some humans) and this is particularly frustrating when one has fought to bring them back to health.
In most areas at present there is still a lot of grass available so acorn ingestion is less likely.
Bearing in mind the above I recomend the use of electic fencing to remove the availability or mowing/sweeping/vaccuuming the areas affected.
Signs of acute poisoning are severe intestinal pain with bloody diarrhoea or constipation and sometimes ulceration of mucous membranes in the mouth.
If you suspect recent exposure to any part of the oak tree remove the animal from the source dose with liquid paraffin by mouth encourage fluid intake and seek veterinary assistance.

29/9/06

Julie

Interesting - never realised pigs could also suffer ill effects from acorns. My Kunekunes have hoovered up thousands of acorns over the years and do not seem any the worse for it. I have removed my sheep from the acorn infested field and will return them when the acorns have either rotted or been eaten by squirrels (do they get poisoned?). I have LOADS of grass but my Boreray and Soay sheep like variety in their diet and the acorns seem to satisfy that desire! I always thought that acorns were fairly unpalatable.

2/10/06

stuart stuart

It is possible that Kunekunes may have an increased resistance to acorns and I know it has long been traditional to use pigs to hoover them up. I was suprised to find that pigs can suffer from the toxic effects of acorns and IU think it was from some american reports that I discoverd this. Perhaps it depends on the amount they eat.
There seems to be loadsa grass everywhere so if you have any watch the ponies for lamianitis!

2/10/06

Julie

Ah yes - the pony and the donkeys - I have been keeping them OFF the grass during the day (feeding Hi Fi and barley straw) and then letting them out overnight to have a munch. Seem to recall reading somewhere that this was safer than letting them graze during the day - can't remember why though...... maybe this should be a new topic for discussion...

2/10/06

stuart stuart

It's all do do with the level of fructans in the grass which depends on all sorts of factors. Generally the levels are highest in the late morning grass growth so you are probably right about it being safer to graze them overnight. It is also easier to restrict the grazing period as most people tend to be at home late evening and early morning.
Feel free to start a new topic any time. I reckon laminitis probably warrants a whole web site let alone a section to itself.
Thanks for your interesting comments. I hope more people feel encouraged to join in.

2/10/06

Horse Owner Horse Owner

I know that this is a rather late reply, but relevent due to the spring grass peeping through! It's definitely safer for horses to graze overnight. During photosynthesis, grass uses up CO2, water & light, which then produces O2 & sugar. Some of the sugar is used by plant to respire & grow. However, when more sugar is produced than is needed, the grass retains it & stores it as starch/fructans. It is the starch & fructans that is a cause of laminitis. So, the more CO2, water and daylight that is available, the more sugar will be produced by the grass, & so the higher risk of laminitis. This means that, in short, the hours between 3am-10am are the safest for horses to graze, coz daylight has been limited for a while, & grass uses up starch overnight.

6/4/08

stuart stuart

Thank you for the post. It is a tmely reminder that the laminitis season is almost upon us. I have takenthe libery of copying your post to a fresh topic.
Sounds plausible does does vary unfortunately on so many factors especailly at this time of yesr on the weather conditions. Youi are absolutely right about the starch and fructan levels being important but these do vary along though not necessarily in line with the rate of growth.
Facts are there is no safe grazing for horses or ponies prone to laminitis. I have no doubt that the older the better is generally true. whenever restricted grazing is needed good quality roughage (hay or straw) must always be available.

8/4/08

jimbomcw

sorry but BS

fattening pigs on acorns is a centuries old tradition in Europe...older than america has even existed

http://www.search-results.com/web?qsrc=2417&o=1928&l=dis&q=acorn+fed+pigs&atb=sysid%3D406%3Aappid%3D164%3Auid%3D2afeb9be72c26279%3Auc%3D1347245347%3Aqu%3Dgoats+and+acorns%3Asrc%3Dffb%3Ao%3D1928&locale=en_US

a simple goolge search 100% disproves the vet

10/9/12

You must be a registered member to answer questions, you can Register here