Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks for all the blessings of the previous year and for the end of harvest season. It is also a day to enjoy good food. The typical traditional meal consists of turkey and dressing with giblet gravy to pour over your dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all kinds of good pies. Of course, there are many variations and additions to today’s Thanksgiving meal, fried or smoked turkey has become a mainstay for Thanksgiving fare.
The original Thanksgiving meal in 1621 probably had considerably more variation. According to surviving documents the meal consisted of waterfowl, wild turkey, and venison. The birds were probably stuffed, not with corn bread dressing like today, but with onions, herbs, and chestnuts. The cornbread stuffing is a southern addition to the Thanksgiving meal. Historians also believe much of the meal would have been seafood, due to its abundance at Plymouth. Local vegetables would have included corn, beans, and peas. While the meal may have been a little different, it was still quite a feast. Whatever the meal, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated, ate and napped for 3 days at the Plymouth Colony in 1621, creating Thanksgiving in the U.S. that we still observe and celebrate today. So, it really makes no difference whether you are having turkey, beef steak, or venison, the day is not so much about the meal as it is being thankful for all we have.
This year we had our first frost and some record lows well before our average first frost date. This has resulted in the need to begin supplemental feeding much earlier than normal. This will also have cattle potentially eating things they would not normally eat. With this year’s heavy mast crop, acorn poisoning is a possibility. Acorn poisoning is usually not an issue unless forage is short and cattle get a little hungry. However, this is not always the case, cattle are curious and if there are lots of acorns, they are likely to try them. For whatever reason cattle like acorns and once they learn to eat them, they are hooked and will seek them out.
The tannins in the acorns are what can cause gastrointestinal issues, kidney failure and death in cattle. Often cattle that have been consuming acorns will have very dark, black or bloody manure. Typically, they will be dehydrated, will have a loss of appetite, weakness and will usually just appear poorly. It is not uncommon for cattle to die if allowed to continued access to acorns.
There is really no good treatment options for cattle that have been feeding on acorns to the point that they are exhibiting the more serious symptoms. If caught early removal from the field or trap that has the acorns is the best option. Keeping adequate quality forage out for your cattle will often keep them from ever eating acorns in the first place.
Later in the season it appears acorns become less palatable and cattle are less likely to eat them.
Cattle are not the only livestock that have issues with acorns, sheep have a similar liking for acorns and exhibit the same symptoms as cattle. Like
cattle sheep can die from acorn poisoning if not caught early. Goats, horses and other livestock can also get acorn poisoning, but it appears to be much less likely than in cattle and sheep.