Certain lupines (Lupinus spp.) contain alkaloids that cause contracture-type skeletal birth defects and cleft palate (“crooked calf syndrome”) when consumed by cows during the 40th to 70th day of gestation. The objective of this study was to determine when cattle graze velvet lupine (Lupinus leucophyllus Dougl.) during its phenological development, and whether this period overlaps the critical period of gestation. Grazing studies were conducted in 2001, 2002, and 2003 in the same 100 ha pasture in eastern Washington. A second objective was addressed in 2001 to determine if cows with crooked calves consumed more lupine than cows with normal calves. Five mature Hereford cows with crooked calves at their side and 6 mature Hereford cows with normal calves grazed together for the summer. There was no difference (P = 0.17) in the amount of lupine consumed between groups, and all cows consumed some lupine. In 2002, 10 3-year-old Hereford cows with normal calves were used, and in 2003, 8 of the same cows from the 2002 study with normal calves were used. In all 3 years, cows started consuming lupine in July and August after annual grasses dried and annual forbs matured. Lupine is a deep-rooted perennial that remained green and succulent longer into the summer than the associated forages. Concentration of the teratogenic alkaloid anagyrine declined as lupine seeds shattered in late June and early July. Lupine consumption occurred during the critical period of gestation in 2 of the 3 years, but no crooked calves were produced. Apparently, the cows did not ingest sufficient amounts of anagyrine over the susceptible period of time to produce crooked calves. The management recommendation for this site is to restrict access to lupine during July when cattle begin to graze lupine and anagyrine levels may still be relatively high. Once the seeds shatter, toxicity greatly declines.
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