Are Walnut Trees Bad for Cattle?

Livestock safety is the number one priority for any farm owner. 

While we usually think of providing healthy food or preventing dangerous bacteria, trees are not typically high on the list of considerations. 

Walnut trees are dangerous to have around cattle. While some trees are only dangerous if certain parts are ingested, walnut trees release a toxic chemical called juglone into the soil and area around them, making them unsafe in pastures.

There are several trees with the capacity to cause illness and even death in cattle. 

Keep reading to learn what trees to keep out of your pasture and away from your farm animals. 

are walnut trees bad for cattle

Safety Of Walnut Trees And Cattle

The walnut tree family releases a substance called juglone from their roots. 

This substance is toxic to a lot of different things. 

This includes plants and animals. 

Plants will then struggle to grow around these trees. 

Juglone is also in walnut tree leaves, branches, and nut hulls. 

Wood shavings made from walnut trees can cause damage to livestock, especially hoof and feet damage in horses. 

The actual walnut husks also pose a risk. 

When they fall to the ground and decompose, they release the juglone into the soil. 

Livestock and other animals around the area are exposed; if they eat some, they become sick. 

Identifying Walnut Trees

There are 21 species in the walnut genus. 

The ones found in North America include the following: 

  • Andean walnut
  • Arizona black walnut
  • Black walnut
  • Butternut
  • Brazilian walnut
  • California black walnut
  • English walnut
  • Northern California black walnut
  • Japanese walnut
  • Manchurian walnut
  • Little walnut

With so many different species of trees in the walnut genus, it is hard to memorize what each one looks like. 

Luckily, there are a few features to help you identify walnut trees. 

The bark usually includes vertical, deep fissures set in rough bark. 

However, butternut trees (or white walnut) have light, smooth bark.  

The leaves of all walnut trees are shaped like feathers in a pinnate. 

A pinnate leave contains pairs of leaves on each side of the central stalk. 

Walnut trees have 2 to 9 pairs, plus a leaf at the tip. 

The nut looks like a little green ball and has a distinctive smell.

After opening the outer layer of flesh, you will find the brown walnut shell. 

There are two halves to the textured shell. 

Other Dangerous Trees For Cattle

Cattle love the shade and need it in the pasture. 

But there are quite a few trees to keep out of your pasture and away from your animals. 

Different trees release different toxins through various parts of the trees.

Before planting any trees in your pasture, research them thoroughly. 

If you bought new land, identify all the existing plants and remove them if necessary. 

This is not a complete list of trees to avoid, but here are some of the more common trees. 

Related Post: Soybeans and their danger to cows

Oak Trees

Even though oak trees are very popular and common, they aren’t the safest for cattle either. 

Like walnut trees, oak trees release a potentially toxic substance. 

For oaks, it is tannin. It is found in the leaves and acorns. 

If eaten in large amounts, this can make your dairy or beef cattle sick.  

Signs of sickness include anorexia, constipation, and hard manure. 

Later stages of poisoning include dehydration and hematuria. 

If your cattle tend to munch on wilted leaves or other things they find, you don’t want to have any dangerous trees around. 

Cattle that only eat grass and are less curious about other plants may be fine with an oak tree around. 

Buckeye Trees

Keep the buckeye family away from your cattle. 

This includes the horse chestnut, yellow buckeye, Ohio buckeye, and some small shrubs in the family. 

This tree family is more common in the South. 

Every part of the tree is toxic if ingested. 

Glycoside aesculin and saponin aescin are found in the bark, leaves, and nuts. 

Once again, the danger to your cattle depends on if they like to munch. 

It’s OK if you keep a buckeye tree near a pasture as long as your livestock don’t eat any part of it. 

Cherry Trees

Cherry trees contain another type of toxic chemical. 

Hydrocyanic acid is found in the leaves, branches, and seeds. 

While the fruit itself is edible, the rest of the tree can cause illness to your cattle. 

Wilted leaves are particularly toxic, so it is best to keep cherry trees away from your pastures. 

Once again, it depends on your cattle’s munching habits. 

But do you want to take a chance?

Red Maple Trees

While other maple trees are safe, the red maple leaves are toxic. 

Leaves wilting on the ground release a toxic chemical when ingested for up to a month after falling. 

While red maple trees should be kept away from cattle, they are especially toxic to horses. 

If you use your pasture for multiple animal species, consider how toxic trees are to all of them. 

Box Elder Trees

Box elder trees are found throughout North America, including in pastures. 

Box elder tree seeds are highly toxic when eaten. 

Ingestion can lead to muscle issues, weakness, and muscle tremors. 

Eating box elder trees can cause death within 72 hours. 

Cedar Trees

Here’s another tree bad for all sorts of animals.

Cedar trees contain thuja and Melia toxins A and B, so it’s best to avoid this as well.

Further Reading: Why Cedar Trees Are Bad For Cows

What Should I Do if My Cattle Get Sick?

If you suspect your cattle have gotten into harmful leaves, twigs, or seeds, call your veterinarian. 

You also need to identify the type of plant if you don’t already know. 

Since there are multiple potential toxins, narrowing it down will make diagnosis quicker.

When an animal exhibits signs of poisoning or toxicity, it is hard to know which specific toxin is to blame since they can cause similar effects. 

The more information your vet has, the more likely they will be able to treat your animal. 

Immediately remove any other cattle from the pasture area the tree is located in. 

Put up a temporary fence boundary or other perimeter control if you don’t have another paddock or barn to put them in. 

Remove the tree and any fallen branches. 

Keep the cattle out of the area until the leaves have decomposed if the tree is toxic. 

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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