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Death Camas

Producers may want to take extra precautions and alter when and how pastures with death camas are grazed this year.  A vet this week diagnosed cattle loss in Northern Stillwater County due to Death Camas.

Death camas is highly toxic in the spring, especially the underground bulb.  When soils are moist, livestock can pull the bulb out of the ground and ingest it.  Death camas greens up earlier than most other plants, making it relatively more palatable than most other plants in early spring, thereby contributing to livestock eating toxic amounts.  Toxicity is less likely if turn-out can be delayed for a while to let the death camas plants become more mature and to allow the grass to grow more.  Toxicity commonly occurs in pastures where grass is in short supply, either because of too-early turnout or because very little residual carry-over grass is present from the previous year.  There is no cure for death camas poisoning.  The only way to avoid it is to minimize the concentration of the toxin in the animal’s diet.  That is, livestock need to eat as little death camas as possible while at the same time eating as much grass as possible.  Making sure to graze death camas pastures lightly vs. heavily will help.

The concentration of toxins in death camas and all other plants varies with the weather.  This year appears to be a year when growing conditions may have caused death camas to be more toxic than usual.  I think it is reasonable to suggest that this year producers in your area should try to avoid spring grazing wherever death camas is abundant.

Many are reporting higher than normal concentrations of Death Camas. Should you wish to try and control Death Camas the following recommendation came from Jane Mangold our rangeland weed specialist.

A good source of information on death camas can be found in the USDA ARS bulletin #415 “Plants Poisonous to Livestock in the Western States.� See page 24. This document states that 2,4-D will provide control when applied at 1.5 to 3 lb. ae/A early in the season when plants have 3-6 leaves. the ester formulations work better than the amines; similar to lupine control.

As a member of the liliaceae family, death camas is not susceptible to many herbicides.  Dicamaba products are some with death camas on the label, and in most recommendations provide poor to mediocre control. In other words, no “silver bulletâ€� exists at this point.



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