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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Have you ever heard cattle dying from eating buttercup?


QUESTION:
I am an insurance adjuster and have a claim for 11 cattle which died allegedly due to eating crawling buttercup in a pasture. I cannot find any information indicating that cattle die from this weed...only irritation of the skin and mucous membranes. Cattle in a pasture next to this field were not affected. Have you ever heard of cattle dying from eating buttercup?

ANSWER:

It is possible. There are records of at least one cow dying eating Rannuculus repens and many sheep dying from eating a related plant with the same toxin. It is unlikely. You are correct, the irritating toxin usually prevents the animals from eating much. The symptoms are usually limited to blisters, GI irritation and diarrhea. In order to take a dose to cause the liver damage or severe enough gut tissue damage to kill the cattle, they would have to come onto a pasture in which a large portion of the dry matter (maybe 50% of the available forage) was creeping buttercup hungry enough to eat the awful stuff and keep eating while it pain. A definitive answer to your question would require verification of the identity of the weeds present, their approximate frequency of appearance and the condition of the cattle coming in.