Safety on roads, and in pastures


Tony Nye - OSU Extension



While traveling some of the county highways and byways this past week, I came upon combines and tractors also traveling the highways and byways. Each time, I was patient to just follow along and enjoy the scenery.

However, these farming vehicles were passed every time by impatient drivers at locations that were not suitable for passing (curves, rises in the road, solid yellow lines, oncoming traffic, etc.).

I mean … really?

I calculated that if you were driving 5 miles at 55 mph, it would take you 5.27 minutes to drive that distance with no stop signs or lights. If you drive that same 5 miles at 35 mph it would take 8.34 minutes.

Basically, three minutes out of your day.

Another way to look at this scenario is that getting behind slow-moving farm machinery for two miles is equivalent to waiting for two stoplights in the city.

I am sorry for the rant, but this is farming country, and for the next two months during harvest you should plan for encounters with farm equipment while traveling our highways and byways.

I could add lots of tips for both sides on sharing the roadways during harvest, but I think you all get the message.

First and foremost, always wear your seatbelt and follow all traffic laws. Please be patient and use extreme caution when approaching, following, or passing farm equipment on or near roadways.

Remember, research shows that a large percentage of collisions occur due to a vehicle attempting to pass while farm equipment makes a left turn.

At the end of the day, we all want to safely make it to our destination.

It’s harvest time. There’s nothing more beautiful. Take time to enjoy the view!

Dangers in the pasture

Now that fall and harvest has begun, it is also time for trees to change color and leaves to begin to fall. If you have livestock, it’s important to take note of the trees that you have in and around your pastures and dry lots.

Many producers know of the dangers of black/wild cherry limbs and leaves for cattle, but there are several other trees and shrubs that can cause negative impacts on cattle, horses, sheep, and goats:

• Wild cherry. Poisonous to all classes of livestock, wilted cherry leaves and branches can cause prussic acid poisoning, the same poisoning as seen in frosted sorghum-sudangrass.

It’s best to remove downed limbs and leaves from pastures to prevent incidental intake or keep animals off the lot until the leaves have completely dried and become brittle.

• Red maple. Poisonous to horses, wilted red maple leaves can destroy red blood cells, which ultimately leads to decreased oxygen supply to the horse’s organs and extremities. Similar to the wild cherry, make sure to removed downed limbs and leaves.

If total leaf removal isn’t possible (i.e., too many trees to adequately clean up after) you might consider keeping horses away from this area. Make sure there is plenty of forage, such as pasture or hay, in the winter. Keeping horses off the pasture is another option.

• Oak. Oak leaves are most dangerous in their green form and are most toxic to cattle and sheep, but can affect horses if enough leaves and acorns are eaten.

Gallotannin is the compound found in all parts of the oak tree, which is broken down into tannic acid in the digestive tract. This can cause ulceration in various parts of the tract as well as kidney failure, which is typically the cause of death in acorn poisoning. An overload of acorns in the diet can also cause compaction colic in horses.

• Yew. This evergreen is extremely toxic to all classes of livestock, and all parts of the bush are poisonous, with the exception of the berry flesh. As little as 1 pound of yew leaves or branches is enough to kill a 1,000-pound animal.

Taxine is the primary toxin in yew bushes and affects the heart. Removing yew shrubs from fence lines is a way to prevent poisoning, and never dump shrub trimmings into the pastures where animals graze.

With the holidays, this evergreen is found in outdoor décor, so take care when disposing of the branches after the holiday season.

• Black walnut. Mainly affecting horses, black walnut toxicity manifests as laminitis and colic. Horses are not only affected through eating black walnut leaves, but also through sawdust or wood shavings that contain black walnut wood.

The mechanism of laminitis is not yet entirely known in black walnut bedding cases, but the toxin juglone may be absorbed through the coronary band (where the hoof meets the pastern) and interrupts blood flow.

Shavings containing 20% black walnut are known to cause ill effects; rapid breathing may also accompany bedding-type poisoning.

In summary, take inventory of the trees and shrubbery around the barn and pastures.

In some instances, only a few mouthfuls of leaves are enough to harm or kill livestock, leading to profit losses and replacement costs.

Clean pastures and fence lines can do wonders to keeping your livestock safe.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

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Tony Nye

OSU Extension