If there are trees in the pasture where your cattle graze, it is crucial to identify them.
Cows are curious animals, and it is not uncommon for them to chew on tree bark, leaves, or berries.
Buckeye, cherry, savin juniper, and oak trees are well known for containing dangerous toxins.
But are cedar trees poisonous to cattle?
Cedar trees are bad for cattle, horses, goats, and other livestock because they contain harmful toxins. The chemicals in cedar trees include thuja and Melia toxins A and B, which cause serious health issues in cattle. Cedar may even be fatal to cows if a large amount is ingested.
If you do not know the trees in your pasture, it is best to keep your cattle away from them and contact a local arborist for proper identification.
Avoid burning the wood of cedar trees near your cattle because the smoke also contains toxins.
Keep reading for more information on the toxic effects of cedar and how to keep your cattle safe.
Which Parts of the Cedar Tree Are Toxic?
The bark, berries, and leaves are all cedar tree components containing toxins that are dangerous for animals and humans.
The berries and bark are the most poisonous parts of a cedar tree because the toxins are more concentrated in them.
Even if the cedar tree is on the other side of your fence, the berries and leaves will still fall into the pasture.
If your cattle graze too close to cedar trees, they will likely accidentally ingest these berries and leaves.
There are many different species of cedar trees, and some are more toxic than others.
The most commonly found cedar species in the United States include white cedar, western red cedar, and eastern red cedar.
Of these three varieties, white and eastern red cedar are the most toxic.
The western red cedar is not known to be toxic and is commonly used to make cedar planks for cooking.
Cedar shavings, chips, and mulch should never be placed in a cattle enclosure.
The cattle may not eat them, but cedar chips contain hazardous oils like phenols and terpene.
The cedar oil will leach into the skin and dissipate into the air, causing skin, eye, and respiratory issues in animals and humans.
When the cedar pollen count is high, it also causes an allergic reaction in some people, known as cedar fever.
Why Are Cedar Trees Bad for a Farm?
In addition to being dangerous to your herd of cattle, cedar trees are harmful to your farm and pasture.
Cedar trees grow very quickly, and they will crowd out more beneficial trees like the black locust, pine, and poplar.
The spread of cedars is mainly caused by birds, which eat cedar seeds and excrete them through their droppings.
The accelerated growth rate of cedar trees causes them to deplete vital nutrients in the soil.
A cedar tree may also disrupt the soil’s pH over time, causing it to become slightly acidic.
Cedars grow very large, which limits the amount of sunlight and water the ground below them receives.
Eventually, this heavy shade from a cedar tree will cause the grass and plants underneath it to die.
Cedar trees are also a fire hazard because they burn hot and fast.
The Effects of Eating Cedar for Cattle
The toxicity of cedar trees to cattle depends on the amount and which parts of the tree are ingested.
Since the berries and bark of a cedar tree contain the most toxins, a cow will have more severe symptoms after consuming these parts.
The symptoms a cow might display after eating cedar berries and bark include:
- Muscle spasms
- Slowed heart rate
If the cow has eaten a large amount of berries or bark, it might be fatal for the animal.
The leaves of a cedar tree only contain small quantities of the Melia A and B toxins, so the symptoms would be much milder.
When a cow has eaten only the leaves of a cedar tree, it will have symptoms such as:
Certain species of cedar also include high levels of socupressic or agathic acid.
These acids may induce an abortion in pregnant cows if a sufficient quantity is ingested.
If cedar trees are on or near your pasture and your cows are displaying any of the above symptoms, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
There are no animal medicines for cedar toxicity, but a veterinarian may give your cow activated charcoal to remove the toxins from its body.
In cases of severe vomiting or diarrhea, your cow may need intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration from occurring.
When Are Cattle Most Likely To Eat Cedar Trees?
Cattle are more likely to eat parts of cedar trees if they are starving and do not have access to food.
Provide your herd of cattle with sufficient food when they are in their enclosure.
To prevent starvation, you must also ensure plenty of grazing material in the pasture.
You also need to monitor your cattle more closely during certain times of the year if there are cedar trees on your property.
Stormy weather in the late spring and summer may cause more cedar tree branches to fall to the ground within your cattle’s reach.
The berries on cedar trees become ripe during the late summer through the fall.
These berries will end up on the ground, and a curious cow might think they are a delicious snack, unaware of their danger.
The needle-like leaves of a cedar tree may also shed in the fall months, creating another hazard for cattle who eat them.
What To Do if There Are Cedar Trees in Your Pasture
Removing cedar from the property near your pasture is the safest option for your cattle.
The benefits of cedar removal include a safer environment for your cattle and healthier soil.
Some old-growth cedars in Central Texas are home to endangered bird species like the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.
Since these birds are protected, there are laws making cedar removal illegal in parts of Central Texas.
If removing the trees is not an option, you will need to build a sturdy wire mesh fence around the perimeter of the trees.
The fence must be far from the cedar tree for any berries or leaves to fall within the enclosed area.
Inspect the fence regularly to ensure it does not contain any breaks for a cow to enter through.
It is also wise to remove any flowers from the cedar tree before they are pollinated.
Once the flowers on a cedar tree have been pollinated, they will develop their toxic berries.