Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
November 4, 1999

Hedge Balls, Acorns and Hardware

Grazing short pastures, which most beef producers are doing, provides the opportunity for beef cattle to consume numerous particles that oftentimes create problems producers need to be aware of. The height of the grass available for grazing certainly leaves something to be desired. One prominent cattle producer reminded me several years ago to "remember that under short grazing conditions an old cow will eat anything". Whenever we have these grazing conditions the door is open for obstacles we normally don’t think about.

One of these problems is the availability of hedge apples or hedge balls. I know of no digestive problems resulting from cattle consuming hedge balls. However, choking is a problem if  large portions of the hedge ball are swallowed or the hedge ball is swallowed whole. Cows choking on hedge balls have excessive salivation, and bloat frequently occurs resulting in death due to not being able to belch. Lodging of the large portions of hedge balls in the respiratory tract is the primary culprit in preventing the hedge balls from passing into the digestive system.

Another problem we often see is acorn poisoning. I have had two reports of this problem already this year. According to Bob Larson DVM, UMC, normally when acorn poison occurs we see numerous digestive disturbances, reduced activity, constipation, bloody urine, and just plain withering away of the animal. There is little that can be done for severe cases of this malady and frequently death is the end result.

Hardware ingestion is another problem that frequently arises when grazing short pastures. It is amazing what is available in the grazing areas from metal portions of fences, buildings, equipment, and metal left from previous junk piles. Under short grazing conditions when supplementation is being provided, offering the supplementation in bunks is recommended rather than feeding supplement on the ground. Feeding on the ground promotes the possibility for hardware disease. It is impossible to know where fences, farm structures, and pieces of wire or staples are in the grazing area. The cow has an excellent opportunity to retrieve these particles and consume them when grazing short forage.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - November 4, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT110499.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004