July 30, 2001
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. Nebraska's growing potato industry means the state's livestock producers must be more watchful of their herds. Cattle, sheep or pigs that dine on a nearby potato patch can become extremely sick and may die.
Potato vines contain a glycoalkaloid called solanine that may be toxic to livestock, said Alex Pavlista, potato specialist at the University of Nebraska's Panhandle Research and Extension Center here.
"Glycoalkaloids are found in the leaves and vines of many plants, including tobacco and tomatoes," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources specialist said. "Some are more toxic than others. Since livestock will eat nearly anything they come across, it is particularly important to keep animals away from plants that produce these chemicals, such as potatoes."
Cattle and sheep are affected by solanine, but pigs are the most sensitive to the chemical because of their single-stomached digestive tract.
Good fencing and proper fence maintenance is the only way to keep livestock away from potato fields, Pavlista said.
"If cattle get into a potato field, they will likely eat the vines," he said. "You have to stop this problem before it starts."
Animals that have ingested solanine generally will stop eating, salivate heavily and pregnancies will terminate.
"There will be no doubt that the animal is sick once it has eaten potato vines," Pavlista said. "Depending on the quantity of vines eaten and the other chemicals on the vines, the animal may even die."
Only one case of potato-vine poisoning in livestock has been reported in Nebraska recently, he said. Last year, one cow died and another became seriously ill after they were found grazing in a potato field in Rock County.
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