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Old 07-09-2016, 07:26 PM
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MotherCharlotte MotherCharlotte is offline
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Default Chokecherries - Poisonous for Sheep?

Hello all,
I haven't visited the BHM forum for quite some time - a couple of years, I think - but I have a pressing question that has brought me back. And now I remember what a great place this is. I hope to post more often in the future.

Anyhow, this is my situation. We have a weedy pasture where we put our Shetland sheep occasionally. This field is barren of trees (and it's surrounded by a wheat field) so I really wanted to add a few trees, especially to provide shade for the sheep while they're in there.

I just bought two Canadian Red Cherry trees on clearance at a local garden center. They are nice tall trees with the lowest branches being much too high up for the sheep to reach. I looked it up and found that Canadian Red Cherry is variety of Chokecherry with red leaves. So I thought these trees would be great, if I cover the trunk the sheep won't eat them and they'll provide fruit to use for jams and jellies.

But, AFTER I bought the trees I was looking them up again and learned that they are poisonous, like all trees in the cherry family. Somehow I missed this information before! Apparently the leaves contain a form of cyanide.

My question is, how dangerous is this really? If the sheep can't reach the branches, and I remove any branches that fall, is it still too dangerous to plant these trees in the pasture? I could probably find a spot for them somewhere else, but I purchased them specifically to provide shade in the pasture, and the budget doesn't allow for any more purchases right now. Oh, and the garden center won't take them back. I already asked.

If anyone has any experience with allowing livestock to graze around cherry trees, good or bad, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks!
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Old 07-12-2016, 08:44 PM
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Hmmm, I guess not...thanks anyway!

I happened to be somewhere over the weekend that had two really big red chokecherry trees, like the ones I bought. The canopy was so dense and wide and they made amazing shade trees! I guess I'll go ahead and plant them anyway, and just try to make sure the sheep don't get at the leaves. If this is a really bad idea, somebody warn me quick!
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:58 PM
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I don't the answer to your question for sure, but my horse regularly stretches her neck over the paddock fence to nibble on a Black Tartarian cherry tree-- no ill effects, but not a large consumption and the horse goes 1000lb, not 150 lb like a sheep.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:33 PM
Kachad Male Kachad is offline
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No personal experience, so didn't want to post earlier. But I would suggest calling your local university extension or an ag university. Maybe even your local vet or farrier.

Good luck, and let us know what you find out.

p.s. I have a lot of chokecherries on one edge of my property, and love making stuff with them. No animals cept my dog though!
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Old 07-13-2016, 12:14 AM
Doninalaska Doninalaska is offline
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I don't know about sheep, but there is always talk about plants being toxic to livestock. I know our goats and the moose around simply won't eat the chokecherries, so we never found out if they were toxic. I agree, however with other posters--call the Extension Service if you want to be sure.
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Old 07-13-2016, 10:20 AM
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MotherCharlotte MotherCharlotte is offline
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Well, I've often heard you all at BHM talk about this Extension Service but I don't believe we have that service in Canada. I've poked around and can't find anything. I'm in Ontario and there is a pretty extensive Ministry of Agriculture website with lots of info on it. It says the leaves and branches are poisonous to livestock, but doesn't elaborate how poisonous or under what conditions, etc.

However - I did more poking around and found this web page:
http://www.prairie-elements.ca/chokecherry.html

This page has more information about the chokecherry tree than I ever wanted to know, and if you scroll down to the Toxicity section it says that although the leaves and twigs have caused fatalities in sheep and cattle, it also says that the animals do not relish this plant and will not eat it unless driven by hunger, as in a time of drought. Also, that the leaves become non-toxic once the fruits mature; so that falling leaves in autumn would be harmless.

I feel okay with planting these trees now. Anyhow, the ones I got are so tall that the sheep won't be able to reach the branches. I'll just watch for fallen branches and I think it will be fine.
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Old 07-13-2016, 07:17 PM
Doninalaska Doninalaska is offline
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It is apparently called the Public Agricultural Extension Service in Canada. Maybe nobody knows about it in Canada:

http://www.joe.org/joe/2010december/a7.php
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Old 07-14-2016, 11:27 AM
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Thank you, Don. I didn't read that entire page but it seems to be saying that the extension service no longer exists in Canada. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture website which I mentioned,
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/

has a lot of detailed information, and also a toll-free number you can call to ask questions, and I am guessing that is supposed to have replaced the old extension service.
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Old 07-15-2016, 03:27 AM
Doninalaska Doninalaska is offline
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I got the impression that it was discontinued because nobody used it. They reduced the expenditure due to lack of use.
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