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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

October 3, 2017 - 8:00am -- Anonymous

A colleague of mine located in Morgan County recently experienced a situation where several of his beef cows became quite ill, displaying inability to get up on their own and lack of muscle coordination.  Working with his veterinarian to diagnose the cause of the problem and investigating his pastures, he finally concluded that the cause was most likely buckeye poisoning.  Although it is our state tree, the buckeye is considered a poisonous plant, especially the nuts.  To make matters worse, it appears the buckeye nut crop may be more abundant than usual this year.  The entire article about my colleague’s experience is available on the OSU Extension beef team web site at, but here is an excerpt regarding the specifics of consuming the nuts, along with some therapy suggestions:

“According to A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America (2001), the principle toxins are the glycosides aesculin and fraxin, and possibly a narcotic alkaloid. Animals develop signs of poisoning 16 hours after consuming toxic quantities. As little as 0.5% body weight of the animal can produce severe poisoning.

I am not aware of any specific therapy for buckeye poisoning, but laxatives may be given to remove the ingested plant parts as fast as possible, and if the animal is down for an extended period, keeping the cow hydrated is important.”

It is a good practice for pasture-based livestock producers to walk their pastures on a regular basis and note any potentially toxic plants.  Livestock poisoning happens most commonly during dry conditions when pasture recovery is slow and forage is limited.  Under these conditions, livestock may sample or eat toxic plants (or nuts!) that they normally would avoid.  The story of my colleague’s experience with buckeye nuts and his beef cows is worth keeping in mind.