Bracken Fern Poisoning




Bracken fern is rather common in some areas. It can be consumed directly by animals or accidently baled into hay. Signs of toxicity may take some time to develop. It is more commonly documented in cattle and sheep.


Hemorrhages resembling anthrax in cattle, "bright blindness" in sheep that can be confused with pregnancy toxemia, pinkeye or cataracts. There can be weakness, fever. Symptoms in goats have not been described. (Additional symptoms in sheep include: unsteady gait, loss of appetite, constipation, nervousness, congestion of the eyes, followed by spreading apart of the legs, extreme nervousness and loss of muscular control; the head may be held forward and up; the pupils don’t respond to light.)


Antibiotics and blood transfusions. Successful cure is rare.


Usually animals will only consume ferns when other feed is not available. Symptoms or death don’t usually appear for 2 or 3 weeks after consumption, so it is often hard to make the connection. Bracken fern plants should be eliminated or avoided. When cutting hay, watch for the plants, especially around the edges of established fields.


Nearly all the studies on the effects of bracken fern consumption have been on sheep and cattle. Anyone knowing of the effects on goats can contact me by e-mail below.

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