Watch for acorn toxicosis this fall.
It’s that time of year again and it appears there is going to be a very good acorn crop this year. This can be a problem with cattle producers because acorns contain gallotannin, which will be broken down to tannic acid when eaten by cattle or ruminant animals. Tannic acid is very toxic to ruminants. It will cause ulcers along the intestinal tract and is also toxic to the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure, resulting in the death of the animal.
Clinical symptoms of acorn toxicosis may include:
• Depression and loss of appetite
• Straining to have bowel movements, then black watery diarrhea
• Difficult urinating
• Calves become weak then will not be able to get up
• The death of the animal may be within five to seven days after symptoms occur
Most animals will be diagnosed by symptoms alone, when the animals have been exposed to a fair amount of acorns. When necropsy is done, there may be lots of oak leaves and undigested acorns within the rumen.
Prevention is best done by fencing off the woods if possible but in some cases that may be impossible.
When fencing becomes a problem, producers may mix hydrated lime in the mineral. The calves need to consume approximately 3 ounces of calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime) per head per day to aid in preventing acorn toxicosis.
Treatment for toxicosis is mainly supportive care. This would mainly be fluid therapy either intravenously and/or oral. Mineral oil may be of some benefits orally and broad-spectrum antibiotics that help bacterial infections may also be beneficial.