Keeping livestock safe: Two common toxic weeds that may endanger Philippine livestock

Lantana flower (RDNE Stock project/Pexels)


Livestock, particularly goats, sheep, and cattle, serve as important sources of income and sustenance, contributing significantly to the country’s agricultural industry. However, there are also challenges to overcome when raising them, especially during the dry season when forage grasses become scarce. Farmers and livestock raisers may have encountered sudden animal deaths during this time, some of which may be linked to the ingestion of certain poisonous weeds.

When it comes to raising livestock, the health and well-being of the animals are of utmost importance. As farmers and livestock raisers, being aware of the potential dangers posed by toxic weeds is essential. Knowing which weeds can be toxic allows farmers to take proactive measures to protect the animals and prevent potential health issues. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Lantana and Hagonoy, two prevalent poisonous plants in the Philippines.

Lantana (Lantana camara)

Lantana, locally known as bangbangsit (Ilocos) or bahubaho (Iloilo), is a small flowering shrub characterized by square stems. This plant features clusters of eight or more tubular flowers surrounded by rings of colorful sepals, a structure that protects and supports the flower. The plant can grow up to six feet in height and spread up to eight feet across the ground. Its leaves are ovate, coarsely serrated, and deeply veined, with colors varying from pale to red or orange.

Lantana flower (Paramanu Sarkar/Wikimedia commons)

Lantana plants have a substance called lantadenes, which can cause liver problems in animals. The dangerous chemicals are mainly found in the leaves and unripe or ripe fruits of the plant. Livestock that graze on Lantana can experience liver issues caused by photosensitization, which makes them highly sensitive to sunlight. This can result in redness, itching, and severe necrosis in pigmented areas of the skin. Affected animals may also show symptoms like jaundice, constipation, bile accumulation, enlarged gall bladder, kidney damage, gastroenteritis, loss of appetite, and dehydration.

Lantana flower (RDNE Stock project/Pexels)

Hagonoy (Chromolaena odorata)

Hagonoy, also known as agonoy (Iloilo) or damong Imelda (Tagalog), is an erect, hairy perennial shrub that can grow from one to three meters in height. The leaves emit a pungent smell when crushed, and the plant produces light blue to white flowers in clusters.

Hagonoy leaves emit a pungent smell when crushed (L. Shyamal/Wikimedia commons)

Hagonoy has nitrate content, which can turn into nitrite in the digestive system and become deadly. Nitrite transforms haemoglobin into metahaemoglobin, reducing oxygen supply to tissues and resulting in fatal consequences. Moreover, Hagonoy contains toxins which lead to liver toxicity. Livestock feeding on hagonoy may experience loss of appetite, diarrhea, and death due to tissue anoxia, characterized by oxygen deprivation at the tissue level.

Hagonoy flower (Vengolis/Wikimedia commons)

What to do if your livestock ingests the poisonous plants

If any signs of poisoning are observed, consider the possibility of ingestion. In such cases, it’s essential to isolate the affected animals from the rest of the herd to prevent further poisoning. Immediately reach out to a veterinarian for professional assistance, ensuring the poisoning is confirmed, and appropriate treatment recommendations are received.

Moreover, take preventive measures by removing the poisonous plants from the grazing areas, reducing the chances of further ingestion. Offering alternative forage options to your livestock is also vital to ensure they have enough to eat and minimize the likelihood of consuming poisonous plants.

Understanding the risks posed by lantana and hagonoy is important for livestock farmers. Farmers can implement necessary precautions to safeguard the health and livelihoods of their animals by being aware of these toxic weeds and their effects on livestock.

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