With acorns and oak leaves covering the ground in Autumn, they are fun to pick up and collect but not good for some farm animals to eat. Find out which animals you can feed acorns to, and which ones you can’t.
Can you feed acorns to horses, cattle or dogs?
The simple answer is No. Please DO NOT FEED ACORNS TO OUR ANIMALS.
Acorn poisoning most commonly occurs in sheep but can also affect horses, cattle, and goats. If they eat too many it can kill them.
Although goats can graze near oak trees and consume acorns without problems most of the time, other animals can not. Problems can occur when animals eat a large amount of acorns at one time. At the farm park, we must take similar precautions as with cattle grazing near oak trees. You often find animals that are in bare fields and are “hungry” that will eat a large crop if on the ground.
Why are acorns bad for farm animals?
Acorn poisoning most commonly occurs in sheep but can also affect horses, cattle, and goats. It is caused by eating an excessive amount of acorns, oak leaves or branches from an oak tree. Although this is toxic to these particular livestock animals, it isn’t necessarily toxic to other animals that require this type of nourishment in their daily diets.
The toxin that is produced by oak tree acorns is called “tannin” or “tannic acid” that causes the animal to absorb protein inappropriately. Tannic acid contracts the tissues or canals of the body, acting as an astringent causing kidney damage and gastroenteritis. All oak trees contain this toxin, but it is measured at a more dangerous level in the White Oak tree. All oak trees produce a bittersweet taste to the acorns, branches, and leaves of the tree. This makes it an appealing item to eat for certain animals if they get a taste for them.
What do we do to protect our animals from acorns?
Recognising which animals must not come into contact with acorns is important. We ensure our animals safety by moving them to oak tree-free paddocks in the Autumn. If we have to turn horses out in fields with oak trees we fence off the trees – electric fencing is good for this. Alternatively, we rake up all the acorns as they fall to the ground. Although tedious this is good practice.
A horse can get a taste for acorns and search for them while grazing. Oak and acorn poisoning causes kidney damage and gastroenteritis in a horse or pony.
Acorns will only make a goat sick if they stop chewing their cuds. This can be deadly.
Do acorns grow into oak trees?
Yes, after falling in autumn, each acorn (an oak tree seed) can produce a new oak sapling the following spring. But most acorns don’t get the chance as they are munched before they get the chance to germinate.
Which animals can eat acorns and oak leaves?
Acorns are a favourite food for many woodland creatures. A rich food source for wildlife including jays, mice, badgers and squirrels who store them safely away for their winter provisions. Deer also naturally eat their share in deciduous woodlands.
If you’d like to find out more about the animals at Farmer Palmer’s please head over to our Animal Pages. Or, if you’re ready to book tickets to come and visit the farm park, check out our Times and Prices Page.
We look forward to seeing you.