Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 54, Number 4 (July 2001) by Subjects
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Alkaloids as anti-quality factors in plants on western U.S. rangelandsAlkaloids constitute the largest class of plant secondary compounds, occurring in 20 to 30% of perennial herbaceous species in North America. Alkaloid-containing plants are of interest, first because alkaloids often have pronounced physiological reactions when ingested by livestock, and second because alkaloids have distinctive taste characteristics. Thus, alkaloids may kill, injure, or reduce productivity of livestock, and have the potential to directly or indirectly alter diet selection. We review 7 major categories of toxic alkaloids, including pyrrolizidine (e.g., Senecio), quinolizidine (e.g., Lupinus), indolizidine (e.g., Astragalus), diterpenoid (e.g., Delphinium), piperidine (e.g., Conium), pyridine (e.g., Nicotiana), and steroidal (Veratrum-type) alkaloids. Clinically, effects on animal production vary from minimal feed refusal to abortion, birth defects, wasting diseases, agalactia, and death. There are marked species differences in reactions to alkaloids. This has been attributed to rumen metabolism, alkaloid absorption, metabolism, excretion or directly related to their affinity to target tissues such as binding at receptor sites. In spite of alkaloids reputed bitter taste to livestock, some alkaloid-containing plant genera (e.g., Delphinium, Veratrum, Astragalus, Oxytropis, and Lupinus) are often readily ingested by livestock. Management schemes to prevent losses are usually based on recognizing the particular toxic plant, knowing the mechanism of toxicity, and understanding the temporal dynamics of plant alkaloid concentration and consumption by livestock. Once these aforementioned aspects are understood, losses may be reduced by maintaining optimal forage conditions, adjusting grazing pressure and timing of grazing, aversive conditioning, strategic supplementation, changing livestock species, and herbicidal control.