What’s up buttercup? Can my horse eat these darling little flowers?
Does anyone else remember holding a buttercup under your chin to be turned yellow? Seems like a vague memory… Buttercups are great to look at, to hold, but really horrible for horses.
Protoanemonin is the name of the toxin (yes TOXIN) that is contained in buttercups. The leaves and stems to be specific. When a horse eats buttercups, this toxin acts on his digestive system. Excessive salivation can happen, much like the reaction from clovers. Ulcers, blisters, or sores can form in the mouth and around the lips. (OUCH) This can also happen on noses and legs if the sensitive skin comes into contact with the leaves and stems. Your horse can also develop colic, diarrhea, and we all know that these conditions can be life threatening.
Now for the good news - Buttercups taste horrible! They are bitter, and when a horse has the option to eat great pasture or buttercups, he will eat the pasture. Interestingly enough, when pasture is sparse or overgrazed, buttercups can take over. This is also the time when the horse will eat buttercups out of necessity. Supplement with high quality forage and take care of the buttercups to avoid some Vet bills! The toxicity of buttercups will vary depending on the type, the climate, the growing cycle, etc.
Some more good news - Buttercups are totally harmless once they have been cut with hay and dried. I can’t tell you what they taste like when they are dried, but you don't need to worry about your horse getting sores or ill.
Migs won't eat them. Phew!
Good pasture management is the key here. Avoid overgrazing, and have a plan for weed control. Your ability to use chemicals for weed control depends on a few factors - such as proximity to creeks. Your local Agriculture Extension Service can help you formulate a buttercup annihilation plan.
How do you deal with these adorable, yet toxic, flowers?