Generally caused by ingesting Veratrum californicum (Western False Hellebore) on the 14th day of gestation.
Western false hellebore or veratrum (sometimes called wild corn and cow cabbage), is a range plant that causes severe poisoning in sheep. It also affects cattle and goats. If ewes, or goats and cows eat it during early pregnancy, western false hellebore causes deformities in the offspring.
Sheep and goats readily eat leaves and plant tops. Cattle may eat it if other forage is scarce.
Western false hellebore is poisonous from the time it starts to grow until after it is killed by freezing, but toxicity decreases as plants mature. The roots are 5 - 10 times as poisonous as leaves or stems. The poisonous substances in western false hellebore are alkaloids.
Western false hellebore grows on moist, open meadows and hillsides at elevations of 5,000 to 11,000 feet. The plant reaches a height of 4 - 6 feet. It is a robust perennial of the lily family. Leaves may measure 9 - 12 inches long and 3 to 6 inches broad. Cream colored flowers grow in clusters at the top of a single unbranched stalk in a way that resembles corn. Seed pods turn black as they ripen. It emerges as soon as snow melts in the spring. Flowers appear in July and August and the plant produces seeds in September.
Poisoning may occur in 2 to 3 hours after an animal eats the plant. Sheep may show slight or marked signs of poisoning after eating 6 to 12 ounces of green stems or leaves.
If pregnant ewes eat western false hellebore on the 14th day after breeding, the young may have congenital deformities of the head. These offspring, commonly called monkey-faced lambs, may have a protruding lower jaw, underdeveloped upper jaw, proboscislike nose, and a variety of deformities of the eyes as well as related deformities.
Ewes carrying severly deformed fetuses may fail to lamb at the end of the normal gestation period. The fetus thus continues to grow to an abnormal size and eventually may kill the ewe unless the lamp is delivered by surgery.
Signs of Poisoning:
- Excessive salivation with frothing
- General body weakness - animal may be unable to stand
- Irregular gait
- Fast, irregular heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breathing
Most of California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Central and Western Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming
It's time to quit if you don't want to look at the photos of a dead kid with severe head deformities, cyclopia and monkey-face!!
Full term kid with Cyclopia and "monkey face" - no hair. Note unusual 2 pupils in one large eyeball.
Born with heart beat and lived only a few minutes but appeared brain dead.
One of triplet doe kids with the first 2 being completely normal.
Counter reset 4-20-2000