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Mares Tail and other poisonous plants

by cow-shed
Does anyone know if pigs have a problem with Mares Tail/Horse Tail weeds. We have an area which is pretty overrun with Mares Tail and Himalayan Balsam etc. Our pigs will be arriving at the end of July and it would be wonderful if they could clear it for us, but I know that Mares Tail can be poisonous. Do people think it could harm the pigs, or are the pigs more likely to avoid it?
last edited on
by cow-shed
by lachlanandmarcus
HORSE TAIL (called Mares tail when growing in water, but lots of peeps call it Mares Tail wherever it grows, I certainly did!)


'The toxicity to livestock, especially horses, seems to be related to the presence of the enzyme thiaminase, which combines synergistically with an undetermined selection of other chemicals in the plant to produce severe and distressing neurological symptoms, sometimes leading to death. As with Ragwort, the most likely source of poisoning is via horsetail included in hay.'

' In common with many problem weeds, Horsetail can regenerate from a single rhizome- node. It is resistant to eradication by all mechanical means, and chemical controls seem to vary widely in effectiveness even when active ingredients, timing and application methods remain the same. The resistance to chemicals is partly due to the siliceous deposits in the stem cuticles, which form a barrier to herbicide absorption, and thus reduce the amount that can be translocated through the system of rhizomes.

Another interesting characteristic of these remarkable plant is in their ability to absorb heavy metals from soil. Accumulations of Cadmium, Copper, Lead and Zinc have been found'

Other websites say the best way to get rid of it is to turf the area and mow and mow and mow until it is weakened. But it is a prehistoric survivor so it is probably the hardest thing to eradicate. Personally I wouldnt risk livestock on a heavy infestation....

Better news on Himalayan Balsam tho!

'Because Himalayan Balsam is an annual plant, it has no persistent root or rhizome system. No individual plant lives, in any case, for more than a few months. The whole future of any population, therefore, is held by the seeds, and once the seed bank is exhausted, the problem is solved. Prevention of seeding by physical means, whichever method is chosen, should be repeated for as many seasons it takes to end all germination. Under usual circumstances, eradication should be possible in three years. The size of some infestations or difficulties with access can, of course, create difficulties.
The physical means employed are grazing by animals, cutting or pulling. These last two have been dubbed "Balsam bashing".

Grazing, whether by sheep or cattle should be started about mid-April and continued throughout the growing season.'

hope this helps.....
by cow-shed
Thanks, I know Mares tail is next to impossible to eradicate (apparently the roots of mares tail go down 60m!). We keep it under control in the field by mowing, but the rest of our land is too hilly and boggy to get a mower on (which is why we thought of pigs!). I know its highly toxic to horses but I was hoping pigs might be different!!

The mares tail dies down in the winter - but presumably the roots are still there just under the surface - so does that mean it is still a problem for pigs because they will root it up?

Good new about the Himalayan Balsam though!
by cow-shed
Update - I waited until the mares tail had started dying back and let the pigs out for a few hours followed by a few days off and kept repeating this until I was sure they werent affected by the mares tail. They have now dug over a huge area - including the mares tail - and been absolutely fine so far.
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