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What's on Your Fence?

There is a time to be on the fence, literally. With all of the summer storms rolling through, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your fences for fallen branches and trees. The fencing in near heavily forested areas are of a particular concern. This summer’s culprit is the black cherry tree. Farmers don’t expect to have a problem with it because they’ve checked their pastures for toxic plants before but it’s more common than you’d think for the wrong branch to end up in your pasture or pen. Black cherry trees and chokecherry trees are prominent in central Virginia and they are toxic to goats and horses.

You might be able to get away with leaving the branch in your pasture for a day or two but once those leaves start wilting, the potency increases to a hazardous level.

Wilted Cherry Tree Branch

The foliage, seeds and bark are all toxic. The toxic substance is prussic acid that when metabolized to cyanide within the animal’s body poses a significant risk to livestock. The cyanide produces severe respiratory and neurologic clinical signs. The characteristic sign of cyanide toxicosis is bright red mucous membranes. The onset of this condition is hours! There is very small window of time in which to identify and treat this toxicosis. Even if identified, the effects of the toxin are difficult to reverse. It’s worth a lap in your ATV or a nice stroll around the perimeter of your property - it could save you and your animals a lot of headache in the long run.

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