The Dangers of Crofton Weed: Know What to Look For
Crofton weed is a rapid spreading weed that has become a nuisance in many areas along the east coast of Australia. Once established, seedlings tolerate shade and grow rapidly. In this way, small infestations of Crofton weed rapidly increase in size unless controlled.
All parts of the Crofton weed are extremely toxic to horses when ingested. The toxic compound is A. adenophora. Crofton weeds are very palatable to horses and often horses prefer to graze on the weed rather than other forage in their paddock.
When ingested over a period the toxin builds up in the horse’s system and symptoms of Crofton weed poisoning will begin to present in as little as eight weeks. If the horse continues to eat Crofton weed their respiratory and cardiovascular system will be irreversibly damaged and this will likely lead to the eventual death of the horse.
The first sign of Crofton weed poisoning is coughing and shortness of breath, made more pronounced by exercise. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately:
- Coughing that is worse when they exercise
- Exercise intolerance
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of conditioning
- Respiratory distress
Crofton weed is the most toxic soon after it flowers in the spring and new research suggests the pollen from the flowers will also cause poisoning as the pollen also contains the A. adenophora toxin.
The damaged caused by Crofton weed poisoning is irreversible and therefore good paddock management and early detection is the best chance of saving your horse. Most horses that have been diagnosed with Crofton weed poisoning will not be able to perform work any longer and may have to be retired permanently.
When identifying Crofton weed loom for erect, perennial shrubs with numerous chocolate-brown woody stems emanating from an underground crown. Crofton weed can grow 1–2 m high. It has broad, slightly crinkled, trowel-shaped, toothed leaves with reddish/chocolate-coloured leaf stems. It produces white flowers in spring.
Be on the lookout for Crofton weed in and around your paddock and remove all traces of this weed to best protect you horse.