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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well that was kinda stupid of me....

We have red elderberry everywhere around here. It is listed as poisonous to goats. I think it must be toxic because my goats have eaten the bark and leaves for sure with no visible side effects. Not sure if they have ever eaten the red berries. It is really not noticeable until the red berries arrive.

Anyways, the berries are here and I've noticed there are several bushes in the goat pen. They've eaten some like I've said but thought I should chop them down and get it out of the pen. So I started chopping one down and dragging it out of the pen. They kinda grow like a vine maple with multiple trunks. I realize that in the process of chopping and dragging they have droped the red clumps of berries everywhere. So I go back and try to pick up as many as I can but the ground is still littered with the berries. Hopefully the goats won't bother them since they are on the ground.

So my question I'm asking myself...do I cut the other bushes down and drag them out littering the ground with more red berries and risk the goats eating them or leave them until fall or winter and cut down when berries are gone. They are already eaten up as far as the goats can really eat. I'm assuming that the berries will fall at some point but wonder if later they won't be as interesting to the goats or if they will be worse?

Does anyone know the effects or long term effect of goats eating red elderberry?
 

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I have looked into this in the past (we don't have elderberry around these parts) and this little snippet taken from the Wikipedia entry tracks well with what I have seen in my research.

"The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and "umbels" contain a toxic alkaloid.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, "herbal teas" made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanide inducing glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat."

I also like this enature entry, since it specifically discusses red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)

http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recNum=TS0426

It seems to me that if you do have the more dangerously poisonous species, which red berry clusters and your location would suggest that you may, and your goats have eaten it already, then there wasn't enough available to cause a toxic reaction. I am pretty sure they would already be dead if they had consumed enough (cyanide is the culprit).

The research would suggest that the berries are more toxic, but only in the species with red berries. Ripening berries are also toxic to some level in other species, so if your berries are red because they are ripening into a darker berry, you would want to wait until they are fully ripe before moving them through the pen. At that point you could eat them yourself, since the ripe berries of the darker species are safe.

As far as how to deal with it now if it is the species with poisonous berries, I would have a couple of basic thoughts:

1. Get the goats out, lay down a tarp, and get the plants on that before bringing them through

2. For the berries already on the ground, get a big push broom and move them around to mush them and get dirt and goat poo into them. If they pick them up and spit them out it isn't going to instantly poison them, they would need to actually consume a good amount

3. Waiting would likely result in dry berries with a higher concentration of cyanide.

4. Your goats have survived this long and you didn't even realize there was a potential danger, so that would suggest the danger is extremely low in your situation. The main concern is if they get out and get access and eat a whole bunch all at once. It is possible that this is a situation where, although they have done fine this long, one set of unlikely circumstances could be very problematic.

Lastly, with yet another long winded response on my part, here is a link to the Tennessee Meat Goats page on cyanide poisoning (they don't mention elder, probably because they don't have it)

http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/haygraintoxicity.html

They mention small ruminants being more susceptible to poisoning at lower dosages, which I think strengthens the concern of goats escaping and stuffing their faces with berries.

Hope that helps,

Gregg
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Gregg. I've thought about using a tarp but don't think it's really feasable. This area was logged about 10 years ago and there is a crisscross of old logs on the ground making very uneven terrain. Plus it is so densely wooded with brush that it's all I could do to drag a section of the elderberry out.

I think I will pull it out like I did with the first bush and pick up as much of the red berry clusters as I can. The goats didn't seem to bother the berries on the ground. So glad there is only a few bushes inside their pen. They are everywhere around here but i don't worry about it when we are out hiking since they only get a bite or two. In their pen the are eating the entire bush (well I'm unsure about the berries) but must be in insufficient quantities to cause problems. Well at least not yet. I've got to get them out of there.
 
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