, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1697-1705

Ingestion of tall larkspur by cattle

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Tall larkspur (Delphinium spp.) is a palatable but toxic poisonous plant in the western United States. The toxins in tall larkspur are diterpenoid alkaloids. We examined the influences of food flavor and postingestive consequences on consumption of a 33% larkspur pellet during 30-min feeding periods for five days using esophageally fistulated cattle that were sham-fed larkspur pellets. Consumption by the sham-fed group was compared to a control group fed alfalfa pellets, and a larkspur group fed only larkspur pellets. Sham-fed cattle did not decrease (P > 0.1) feed consumption compared to controls, indicating no significant difference in food flavor. The larkspur group decreased (P < 0.05) feed consumption by 41% relative to controls and by 31% relative to sham-fed animals (P = 0.08). This reduction in feed consumption indicates the adverse postingestive consequences of tall larkspur ingestion, as the larkspur group apparently developed a conditioned taste aversion to the larkspur pellet. Even though these animals were averted to the pellets, they showed none of the classical signs of intoxication from ingestion of tall larkspur.

This research was supported in part by the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322. Approved as journal article No. 3846.