How & Why

Will Wild Cherry Tree Leaves Kill Cattle?

The wild cherry tree (Prunus pensylvanica) is a deciduous tree, meaning the tree sheds its leaves in the fall. The leaves are toxic to many animals, including cattle because they contain cyanide. The presence of cyanide kills or stuns the animal by preventing the proper function of chemical pathways such as ATP formation and oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria, leading to death from hypoxia and methemoglobinemia within minutes after ingestion.

The wild cherry also contains an alkaloid called canrenone that can cause cardiac arrhythmias and convulsions in mammals and birds. Because the wild cherry is an attractive tree for livestock, wild cherry leaves can cause livestock to be poisoned or killed.

Wild cherry poisoning is a painful and dangerous problem for many livestock across the American West. In addition to poisoning cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer and other animals as well as pets such as dogs and cats, poisonous wild cherry trees may kill valuable wildlife such as deer or elk or cow if they consume big amount of cherry leaves,

Can cows eat wild cherry tree leaves?

Cows usually avoid cherry leaves when they are available because of their bitter taste. But if cows consume a large quantity of cherry leaves, the leaves can poison cows with cyanide and canrenone.

How to prevent wild cherry poisoning?

To prevent wild cherry poisoning, farmers may keep domestic livestock from accessing wild cherry trees. Grazing cattle with electric fencing in a pasture close to a pasture containing wild cherries is not recommended. Some farmers may also plant wild cherry trees at a high density so that they cannot be accessed by grazing cattle. In addition to livestock, people should avoid eating or handling any parts of the wild cherries including the bark and wood .