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WVU Extension Service
Upshur County Office
91 West Main Street
Suite B
Buckhannon, WV 26201

Phone 304-473-4208
FAX 304-473-4261
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30
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Upshur Livestock Association

Be Wary of Your Pasture Protect Cattle from Acorn Consumption This Fall!

Be wary of your pasture, protect cattle from acorn consumption this fall

With recent dry conditions cutting down on the nutrition content and longevity of normal pastures, you may be tempted to let cattle graze in areas that they normally don’t use in hopes of finding additional nourishment.

If that is a possibility on your land, special considerations should be made to ensure the viability of your cattle, especially if the area is wooded.

According to West Virginia University Extension Service Agronomy Specialist Ed Rayburn, wooded areas populated with oak trees are dangerous to cattle, and producers should be extremely cautious letting them feed in those locations.

While the problem associated with oaks is small in size, the implications are huge.

The culprit that’s so worrisome? Acorns.

While tiny compared to a cow, they contain toxic tannins that can lead to gastrointestinal issues, kidney damage and even death in cattle when consumed in large enough quantities. Acorns from red oaks have more tannin content than those from white oaks, but both can be problematic for cattle who consume them.

Green, ripe acorns fall from oaks in the early fall, and they’re generally softer and appetizing to hungry cattle looking to fill their stomachs with whatever they can. This is the time when acorn consumption is the most dangerous for herds.

However, as fall progresses, acorns harden and become less appealing to cattle. By that time, other wildlife, such as deer and turkeys, have had an opportunity to consume their share of acorns as well, so grazing in those areas should not be troublesome.

To avoid letting cattle graze in wooded areas, Rayburn suggests that producers feed hay to cattle on areas that need to be fertilized, and be ready to take advantage of revitalized pastures if sufficient rainfall brings them back to life.

If you have additional questions regarding the subject, contact the Upshur County office of the WVU Extension Service at 304-473-4208.