Toxic plant kills 4 cows in Yellowstone County


GREAT FALLS — Agricultural scientists are warning Montana livestock producers to be on the lookout for a slender green plant that has killed at least four cows in Yellowstone County in a one-week period.

The cows were found to have eaten lethal amounts of the toxic plant known as Death Camas this past week. The plant also has a significant presence in Custer County, but no livestock deaths have been attributed to it there.

According to the Great Falls Tribune (, Yellowstone County Extension Agent Steve Lackman sent an email to Montana State University range scientist Jeff Mosely noting “I have a producer that had three cows die in one night.  My producer tells me that the camas is the same height as the grass and they are eating it with the grass. My producer is alarmed and thought I may need to put out a warning to (other) producers.”

Scientists say the plant, which contains a steroidal toxin called Zygacine, is highly toxic in the spring due to warmer weather and moist soils.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Death Camas is a member of the lily family and can be found growing in pastures and fields from Texas to Alaska.


Source:  Associated Press




Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

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