Can Goats Eat Chokecherry? The Chokecherry Poisoning!

Strange situations were happening that triggered the thoughts of many cultivators. Farmers were working in an area full of chokecherry trees.

What surprised them was that a healthy group of goats passed them, then went to browse the chokecherry trees, after which they showed signs of convulsions and swaying, and then died.

Many farmers were not aware of the strange reason that led to the occurrence of these strange accidents that led to the death of goats. Once the matter was researched, it was found that the chokecherry tree was the cause of the death of goats!

In the following lines, let’s clarify these ambiguous points and discuss the relationship between chokecherry trees and Goat poisoning, how poisoning occurs, and how to deal with and treat it.

Can Goats Eat Chokecherry?

Brown Goat at the Farm

Goats should not eat chokecherry. Chokecherry trees contain a toxin that kills goats and cattle called hydrocyanic acid. This toxic substance is concentrated in the leaves, while berries contain small amounts of the toxic substance.

Although goat poisoning does not occur unless it eats a large amount of chokecherry, it cannot be considered safe, as poisoning is not limited to uncomfortable symptoms only.

Indeed, if goats eat large quantities of chokecherry in a short time, they may die within minutes! When the leaves, seeds, or buds that contain the toxins are chewed or swallowed by goats, they react with chemicals in the goat’s rumen to release cyanide gas that can kill goats very quickly, in just 20 minutes!

Therefore, it is not possible to take risks and let the goats freely browse the chokecherry trees, as it is not possible to control them or calculate the quantities that the goats eat.

There are also individual differences, as the amount that causes slight disease to one goat may cause the death of one of the other goats!

Chokecherry trees are poisonous but not all parts and also not all the time and not all goats. To make it more clear, let us discuss and explain some of the factors that can affect the occurrence of goat poisoning by chokecherry in the next paragraph.

Factors Affecting The Possibility Of Goat Poisoning By Chokecherry

White Goat

Here are 5 factors that we think have the highest influence on the possibility of your goats getting poisoned by Chokecherry:

The Amount Taken From the Leaves and Buds of Chokecherry 

The difference in disease symptoms affecting goats depends on the amount of poison ingested by goats. Not any amount of chokecherry leaves and buds will cause the death of goats.

The researchers found that not every goat that browses on a chokecherry dies. Rather, some recover and some die immediately, depending on the amount of poison that enters their bodies.

Researchers have found that ingesting the hydrocyanic acid in chokecherry leaves can only be fatal if goats ingest about 0.25 percent of their weight in the leaves and buds of chokecherry.

Therefore, young goats may be more susceptible to poisoning because it is smaller in size and any tree bites, even small ones, can be fatal.

Care must be taken to keep goats away from frozen buds and leaves, as these are the parts most likely to produce cyanide. Withered leaves are also toxic and recently pruned branches of chokecherry trees can also pose a danger.

Therefore, the removed chokecherry cuttings must be disposed of, as cases of poisoning of goats have been reported by browsing the chokecherry cuttings, as it led to suffocation and immediate death of the goat.

Toxin Consumption Rate in Goats

One of the key factors affecting how toxic a goat is when browsing chokecherry trees is how often it eats leaves and toxic parts.

The rate of poisoning increases as the rate of ingestion of toxins is greater, meaning cyanide poisoning occurs when goats consume a relatively large amount of leaves and buds that contain the poison over a short period of 30-60 minutes. 

The accumulation of large amounts of toxic substances in the body leads to the body’s inability to deal with them.

Its effect appears quickly, as hydrocyanic acid inhibits cellular respiration and the goats lose the ability to use oxygen, which leads to the rapid appearance of signs of poisoning, which are followed by the death of the goats within a few minutes.

Chokecherry Cultivation Conditions

The amount of toxic substances produced by chokecherry trees varies according to the conditions of their cultivation.

For example, when planting a chokecherry tree under certain conditions, such as soil high in nitrogen or low in phosphorus, this leads to an increase in the accumulation of toxic compounds that produce cyanide.

Also, when the chokecherry tree is sprayed with herbicides, this leads to the accumulation of more toxic substances.[1]

The amount of toxins in the chokecherry tree increases just before pollination or when the plant is damaged. 

Pruning or Frequent Browsing

It may surprise some people that trees have a means of defense that they use in situations of danger.

This is true, trees produce certain substances that cause harm to those who try to eat or destroy them, so they produce toxic substances, and they also send signals to neighboring trees that there is a danger that they also produce these toxins.

Chokecherry trees uses this technique to defend themselves. If it is subjected to frequent browsing by goats or other livestock, or it is exposed to pruning from farmers, this stimulates it to produce more toxins to the extent that its taste and smell become ugly for them, which makes goats and other animals stop browsing it.

Therefore, you should not allow your animals to browse this tree extensively so that they are not exposed to a high dose of poison that causes their disease and death.

Weather Condition

Some farmers have reported during the frosty months that some goats swing by the chokecherry tree and then suddenly die even though they have not suffered from any diseases before!

The initial thought was that death occurred due to starvation or extreme cold. However, when this incident was repeated, samples were dissected from the dead animals, and it was found that the goats had been exposed to cyanide poisoning.

By taking samples from the chokecherry tree, the researchers found that it contains high amounts of toxins in the winter and frost periods, compared to the amounts it contains in warm climates the rest of the year.

So, when the leaves are exposed to freezing, this leads to the accumulation of toxins in them. This explains the cases of deaths among goats browsing chokecherry trees during the height of winter.

Signs of Poisoning by Chokecherry in Goats

  • Shortness and rapid 
  • Breathing
  • Salivation
  • Excitement and anxiety
  • Muscle twitching
  • Convulsions that may progress to coma
  • Bloat
  • Tracheal congestion accompanied by pulmonary congestion
  • With a small bleed.
  • The blood clots slowly.
  • The tissue appears cherry red.
  • The smell of almonds may come out of the contents of the rumen.

Treatment of Hydrocyanic Acid Poisoning in Goat

It may be too late to treat large doses of the toxic substance. But if treatment is done promptly, there may be hope for saving some of the goats. You should go to your vet immediately.

Suggested treatment for hydrocyanic poisoning includes intraperitoneal or intravenous injections of a combination of:

  • 20 ml of a 10% solution of sodium thiosulfate + 10 ml of a 10% solution of sodium nitrite.
  • Intravenous treatment is necessary for animals in advanced stages of sepsis.

How to Avoid Chokecherry Poisoning in Goats?

It is difficult to control how much goats browse through chokecherry trees, especially in wide ranges, so the primary precaution to protect goats is to keep them away from areas where chokecherry is frequently practiced.

The action of hydrocyanic acid is often so rapid that there may be no chance of treating an infected goat.


What Kind of Cherry Trees Are Poisonous to Goats?

Generally, all Cherry trees are not completely toxic to goats. The only parts of the cherry tree that can be toxic to goats are the pits and leaves of the withered fruit, not the fresh leaves which are good to feed goats.

Cherry tree leaves are usually dangerous for goats to ingest If the tree was damaged or pressured either during the storm or due to other shocks.

The leaves on any cracked branches will begin to wither and create a high concentration of cyanide that can be toxic and fatal to goats.

Is Chokecherry Poisonous to Livestock?

Yes, as the Chokecherry tree contains toxins, and cyanide glycosides, which are found in the seeds and leaves of these trees.

If any of them are chewed or swallowed, the livestock may show dangerous symptoms, and death may occur, often within minutes to a few hours.

The cyanide reacts with the iron inside the body and this will cause problems with the cells getting oxygen because it will completely stop cellular respiration.

Thus, oxygen cannot be carried throughout the body which leads to cell death and suffocation of animals.

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Doaa Salah
The shy one (too shy to put her photo) and the only girl in our team! Doaa is a veterinarian who is passionate about writing content. She knows a lot about animals and birds, as she has been studying them for many years now. Her goal? She is researching and learning to convey to you all the knowledge she have and what's new about farming.