Wanted: Leafy Spurge
Leafy spurge is the baddest plant on the range.
By Christine Hamilton in The American Quarter Horse Journal | December 7, 2010
It’s a light green plant with pretty little yellow bracts, but it’ll make land ungrazeable for cattle and wildlife alike.
Leafy spurge, or Euphorbia esula, was first reported in the United States in the mid-1800s. Its seeds are thought to have arrived from Russia in contaminated grain stock. Today, it’s found in all the western states, throughout southern Canada and the Great Plains, and is spreading fast. The federal government has designated it “noxious,” which means that it’s on death row in the United States.
When broken, the plant produces a milky sap toxic to cattle, irritating the digestive tracts and causing lesions or blisters around their eyes and mouths. Although horses will graze around it, cattle refuse to graze pastures with even slight infestations of leafy spurge. If left alone, its invasive growth quickly crowds out the native plants that wildlife and livestock depend on.
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It can cause the value of grazing land to quickly plummet in one growing season. According to the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory’s “Team Leafy Spurge” website, leafy spurge is “an economic and environmental catastrophe for ranchers, land managers and taxpayers in the United States and Canada.”
Its extensive root system is tolerant of cold and drought and difficult to kill. But amazingly enough, sheep and goats thrive on it. Effective management and eradication efforts come from a multifront approach, including combinations of biocontrol agents (the flea beetle Aphthona lacertosa), herbicides, sheep and goat grazing, reseeding, burning, etc.
It’s one bad hombre – know what it looks like and shoot to kill. It might be in your back pasture, in that low area near the pond or along your irrigation ditch. For more information, go to the “Team Leafy Spurge” website.
Download AQHA's FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips report today to learn the steps for preparing your mare for breeding and get the facts on receiving shipped semen.
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