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Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Tuesday 31 May 1921, page 1

Poisonous Weeds.




Lecturing before the Stock Inspectors' Conference in Sydney last week, Mr. Henry, veterinary surgeon, said that many cases had been known in which sheep or cattle had died after eating certain plants, yet not much had been done to ascertain definitely whether the plants were poisonous or whether the animals had died from some other cause. It was a difficult thing to find out, because when the chemist had analysed the plant, it still remained for the veterinary surgeon to find out if the plant would injure stock under conditions that precluded all chance of extraneous causes of death. Usually the greatest difficulty was to get the cattle to eat the plant when required to do so in the cause of science. So the position was that in many cases the experiments had been dropped, and it was not known whether certain plants were always or only sometimes poisonous, nor the particular conditions under which they grew were dangerous. Mr. Henry exhibited a specimen of common Marsh Mallow, which is found all over New South Wales, but particularly in the Namoi Basin, where it is one of the fodder standbys. But when a sickness known as 'Staggers' broke out, and persisted, the mallow was suspected, and experiments showed that 'Staggers' could be produced in 72 hours in young sheep by heavy feeding with mallow. There was a likelihood that the poison could be conveyed from the ewe to the lamb in the milk, as lambs had been affected when they were too young to eat a sufficient quantity of the herb. There were, other plants, notably Rosewood and Fuchsia, which produced prussic acid, but not always in the same quantities. Sorghum and blue couch grass were known to produce, in some conditions, small traces of prussic acid. Soudan grass had also been suspected of containing prussic acid, but experiments so far had failed to prove it. On the other hand, Soudan grass had apparently produced in horses a sickness similar to that associated with millet.


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