is milkweed poisonous

Is Milkweed Poisonous To Goats? How much milkweed is toxic to your animals?

Do you have milkweed growing in your backyard and are confused about whether you should let your goats feed on them? If you are in that position, carefully review this article before making your final decision.

Is Milkweed Poisonous To Goats?

Milkweed can be poisonous to goats; however, some milkweeds have low toxicity levels. Even though some of the milkweed species are low in their toxins concentration, they should still be avoided as too much of these can lead to fatal heart disease.  

However, goats can eat milkweed if hay is not available, but you have to be careful about the species of milkweed they feed on.

Species Of Milkweed

There are four types of milkweeds, which are

  • Showy
  • Lanceolate
  • Green
  • Purple (the weed).

The Showy and Lanceolate species have the highest toxin concentration; goats should avoid them all. Green and Purple have lesser concentrations of toxins but can still make your goats fall sick if they feed on them too much.

What is the Toxicity Level of Milkweed?

The toxic concentration in milkweed is called a cardiac glycoside and an unidentified neurotoxin.

This is the causative factor for indigestion, respiratory paralysis, seizures, heart disease, and even death in goats when feeding on milkweeds in large quantities.

How Does Milkweed Affect Goat Body Systems?

In goats, there is an organ in their heads called the pituitary gland, which pioneers endocrine functions in the body. This organ can be affected by milkweed poisoning resulting in permanently stunted growth.

Also, milkweed in large quantities can result in a nervous breakdown in goats, which may lead to death in extreme cases.

Signs Of Poisoning Caused By Milkweed

The first sign you will observe in a goat poisoned by milkweed is that it will be distressed for the first 3 days after eating the weed. After which mild symptoms like slight tremors and increased thirst will begin to develop,

When not treated for a while, it will lead to severe symptoms like muscle tremors, mental confusion, spasms, irregular heartbeat, permanent eye damage, and even death.

So it is advised that when you notice those mild symptoms in your goat, do call a Vet doctor immediately to come to check on them and apply medication before it gets worse.

How Do You Treat Milkweed Poisoning?

There is no exact first aid treatment or antidote against milkweed poisoning, so the only solution is to quickly call the Vet doctor, who will prescribe drugs to help prevent the body from absorbing the toxins in the blood.  

Is Milkweed Poisonous in Hay?

The toxic components of milkweed are cardiac glycosides (cardenolides) or an unidentified neurotoxin, so when dried milkweed drops into the hay, it retains its toxicity and becomes harmful to the goats.

How To Prevent Your Goats From Eating Milkweed

Since goats are natural browsers that love gazing around their surroundings in search of pastures, the best way to prevent them from coming in contact with milkweed is to either cut the milkweed plants off or build an eight-foot fence to prevent your goats from going outside to graze.

You can use the natural handpicking method or herbicides or pesticides to get rid of the milkweeds.

You can also try out controlled feeding. Controlled feeding prevents the goat from gazing around to feed itself. Instead, you feed them yourselves. You decide what they eat; you bring the hay and the wholesome grains to them. In this way, you checkmate what your goat eats.

How Do You Get Rid of Milkweed Naturally?

The natural way of removing milkweed is to remove the clumps and cut off the stems, trash them, or possibly burn them up. This is because Milkweed spreads through underground stems and forms clumps above ground.

Other Poisonous Plants Near Your House

Poisonous plants such as lilies or water hemlock shouldn’t grow near the house. Also, it would be best if you kept your eye on the fence against some milkweed species and other poisonous ones. This includes:

Euphorbia species – These are large clumps of individual milkweeds and contain toxins in all the parts of the plants that including the stems, leaves, flowers, and roots. These Euphorbia plants look dangerous so goats may avoid them because of their look. They are mostly found on sandy or rocky soil in with Midwest.

Discaria species are milkweeds and are mostly found along the coast of Maine to North Carolina. It is also poisonous to goats.

Other toxic Milkweed species include the following:

  • Spider
  • Wood’s
  • Zorro milkweeds
  • Soldier
  • Pygmy
  • Pinnatinipa (Texas to Arizona)
  • Whitewater

Some of the above species are less toxic, so your goats can eat them in small quantities. Even though they are less toxic, it is hard to ascertain the quantity that can serve as harm to the goats. So it is advised that your goats stay clear of every milkweed species.

Is Milkweed Toxic To Livestock in General?

Most species of milkweed are poisonous to animals. Often milkweed poisoning occurs in cattle and sheep and occasionally in horses.

Milkweed has led to the death of some livestock that fed on them. So, in general, keep livestock off milkweeds.

What Plants Are Poisonous To Goats?

Examples of plants poisonous to goats that should be avoided include azaleas, China berries, honeysuckle, black cherry, nightshade, pokeweed, redroot pigweed, sumac, dog fennel, bracken fern, curly dock, eastern Baccharis, Virginia creeper, and crotalaria.

You should keep your goats away from milkweeds as the toxin concentration of milkweed can cause mild or severe illnesses in your goats and even death in very severe cases.


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