White Snakeroot: A Plant Toxic to Your Goats and Yourself

| 8/19/2015 10:05:00 AM


Homestead dairy herds can encounter a wide variety of poisonous plants, but few have the potential to be as troublesome or frightening as white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima, formerly Eupatorium rugosum). This medium-sized perennial herb, which we first learned about in 2008, can be toxic not only to the livestock consuming it, but to humans consuming dairy products and meat from those livestock.

One of the first things you’ll tend to learn upon Googling this plant is that it killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother, along with many other settlers, during America’s westward expansion. Surprisingly, for such a concerning plant, it’s a relatively obscure member of the “watch out for this” club; many books we’ve read about small-herd livestock don’t even mention it.

In this post, we’ll discuss where to look for white snakeroot, how to identify it, the control methods we’ve attempted, and what recent research is available about its toxicity to goats, humans and other livestock.

How to Find and Identify White Snakeroot



1/18/2018 6:14:01 PM

Wow. 2015 and no comments yet. When I read about Abe Lincoln's mother, I was horrified! But that passed, since, as the article mentions, "modern" milk comes from cows on open pasture or feed. Then I moved to the country and thought about a nice milk cow... A sweet little Guernsey or a gorgeous Scottish Highland. We took down some trees on the edge of our three acres, and come August, what to my wondering eyes did appear but these pretty white flowers that struck me with fear. Could it be? Yes! The infamous White Snakeroot! My thought was put chickens on the land. There are a number of breeds that are ferocious scratchers and diggers. My question is, would they survive their service? If they did, would their meat and eggs be safe to eat?? It seems a question worthy of further study.

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