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Oak Trees - Toxicity Issues

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  • Oak Trees - Toxicity Issues

    So we'll be moving into a property next month that has quite a few very old, amazing oak trees on it. I know that the acorns can be poisonous to horses, I'm wondering if anyone has had any issues with the leaves? I think we can keep the acorns out of the fields and paddocks, but I don't know about the leaves just because of the number of trees around and of course they'd blow further than any acorns that dropped. Any advice or recommendations would be appreciated.

  • #2
    A quick internet search revealed that it is the young, green leaves and acorns that are toxic, so old/fall leaves should not be a problem. If you have plenty of pasture or hay available, then your horses should leave the trees alone. My horses will eat a few acorns each fall when they are soft and green (we have Oregon White oak, and there is no way I'm cutting them down! Each tree is 100+ years old). I rake up the acorns about once a week and they lose interest very quickly in them.
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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    • #3
      We have lots of Oaks never had any problems. But there is plenty of better things for them to munch on in their paddocks.

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      • #4
        We had several varieties of oak on the property I used to manage and we never experienced toxicity issues -- the horses got hay frequently enough (3x/day) that they never really seemed to be interested in acorns or oak leaves. We also had oleander on that property, so the oaks seemed pretty benign!

        Acorns are pretty bitter (unless they're leached like certain indigenous North American cultures have traditionally done to prepare them as food), and the bitterness is roughly correlated with toxicity, so the acorns that pose the greatest risk are generally less palatable to animals like horses. I'd expect you can manage the risk with occasional removal of acorns/leaves from paddocks, trimming of leafy branches in grazing areas, and good access to quality forage. If you are really concerned about it you could consider setting up your feed areas in such a way that oak material is unlikely to get blown into them (e.g. feed hay in nets or feed in some sort of shelter). Good luck!
        Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!

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        • #5
          Careful with the acorns. I guess horses have different food desires just like people as my boys love the acorns. I also have 100+ yr. old white oak trees in the pasture and even with beautiful green grass they love to eat the acorns. I fence around the trees with electric wire and portable fence charger till the deer eat all the acorns. Its a work but last year we were getting hundreds of acorns off each tree every few days. No way could i keep up with that by raking.

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          • #6
            Several Yankees have informed me that the ubiquitous live oaks we have here in Texas aren't "real" oaks. Be that as it may, they drop buttloads of acorns, so whatevs. There are over 200 of'em in my mares' 5-acre paddock. I love my animals, but there are limits; I'm not raking acorns off 5 acres!

            Fortunately, whatever acorns the assorted furry woodland creatures don't get, the feral hogs hoover up. And, even though all my horses chomp the occasional oak branch and seem to enjoy noshing on the acorns every now and then, they've never gotten measurably sick. Furthermore, although the likelihood of live oak exposure is very high in Central TX, I've never heard of another horse falling ill from acorns. Keeping the horses stuffed with free-choice hay is possibly a key element in the Dreadful Acres live oak success story.

            Of course, I am a moron, so my horses might be deathly ill and I wouldn't even know it. Out of curiosity, what are the symptoms of oak toxicity in equines?
            Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

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            • #7
              This discusses toxicity and symptoms. Not just acorns. I have an oak in one pasture that I limit grazing on to when there is enough grass, they won't be interested in the oak droppings at all. They can't reach any live branches, so only what falls is accessible. I tend to put my older, smarter horse there too as he's picky and wouldn't eat anything that doesn't taste good, so sticks to the grass.

              http://www.esc.rutgers.edu/ask_expert/ate_pp.htm#iot

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              • #8
                Hey horsepoor, thanks for that link. Most informative. Naturally, I will now see all those symptoms in all my horses before nightfall!
                Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks for all the info. The oaks are on the property line and then at the back of the house. They should be far enough away that the acorns won't land on the pasture, but I was concerned about the leaves. Looks like just keeping an eye on thing should do. Some of the oaks ate amazingly old trees and it would kill me to have to cut one.

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                  • #10
                    Some horses do love acorns and will eat too many. My vet says he has two or three acorn colics every year.

                    We have oaks everywhere here in the pastures and the horses do take an occasional bite of leaves but it doesn't seem to hurt them.

                    I have heard that the real danger in the leaves is if they get in the horses water and are left to seep, making an oak tea. The tannic acid that seeps out is supposed to be dangerous if there is too much. Don't know this for a fact but it sounds right to me.

                    I hope this post isn't all crazy. Don't know what is happening but my sentences are being written twice even though I'm only writing them once.
                    Trying to wipe out the extras but don't know if it will go through that way.
                    Weird.
                    You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.

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                    • #11
                      I am 100% convinced acorns are the cause of colitis in my horses nearly every year. They LOVE to eat acorns. We fenced the trees off just past the fall line and since doing that they have not gotten as sick. One filly broke through the electrical line and got a mild case of colitis. We had to put up permanent board fence for her benefit. I would buy property with oak trees, but I would put up fences when the acorns fall.
                      Fresh, Frozen & ISO Warmblood Breedings FB Group

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                      • #12
                        Ocala is covered in oaks and nobody rakes anything up.

                        Louisiana is too. Never had an issue.

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                        • #13
                          My local vets all agree that the only trouble they see with acorn eating horses is if (like with any food) a horse that has not had access to acorns suddenly eats a bunch of them. All my horses eat them every year. Only trouble so far is one particular horse has to have access to them from the beginning of acorn season or she will over indulge and get a small tummy ache. This has happened twice in the 15 years I have had her.

                          Have had horses on the same oak tree 'infested' pastures for over 30 years.

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                          • #14
                            My Florida property has oak trees all over it. Only issues we've had are the acorns - not the leaves nor the bark.

                            Horses love the taste of acorns - even the green ones - and too may makes them colic - so I restrict their access to the back of the property (only 2 oak trees there) when the acorns start dropping.

                            No issues with horses drinking water with leaves in it, and we've lived here for about 30 years.
                            Now in Kentucky

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                            • #15
                              We obviously don't have the species of oak tree that is poisonous.

                              We have a row of beautiful old trees, one of which hangs over the turn-out paddock. For the 35 years we have been here the horses have reached up
                              to eat the leaves as they emerge and through the summer, and when out in the pasture they seem to leave them alone, enjoying the grass. Never, ever a tummy ache with these particular trees.
                              Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                              • #16
                                Mine are water oaks and they drop a million acorns. Its dangerous to walk when there's a lot on the ground, it's like walking on marbles. And the horses eat them and eat them and eat them. It's probably the quantity they eat that causes the issues. one or two or 100 probably wouldn't be an issue... thousands at one setting... that's the issue.
                                Last edited by back in the saddle; May. 2, 2013, 06:42 AM.
                                Fresh, Frozen & ISO Warmblood Breedings FB Group

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                                • #17
                                  Just checking, but we do know there are many different species of oak trees, correct? So I would imagine toxicity varies widely by species.
                                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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