U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

The effect of administering multiple doses of tall larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi) to cattle

K. D. Welch, B. T. Green, D. R. Gardner, D. Cook, J. A. Pfister
Journal of animal science 2015 v.93 no.8 pp. 4181-4188
Delphinium barbeyi, Hereford, acute toxicity, adverse effects, alkaloids, blood serum, computer simulation, grazing, hills, muscles, no observed adverse effect level, poisoning, rangelands, steers, Utah
Larkspurs (Delphinium spp.) are one of the most serious toxic plant problems on foothill and mountain rangelands in the western United States. A considerable amount of research has been conducted over the years in both field and pen settings. The results of these research efforts have significantly increased our understanding of the poisoning of cattle by larkspurs. However, most of the pen studies conducted thus far have used a dosing regimen of a single bolus dose, which does not accurately mimic the manner by which cattle are poisoned by larkspur while grazing. Consequently, the objective of this study was to evaluate the acute toxicity of tall larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi collected near Manti, UT) when administered in multiple doses, with the intent to identify a no observable adverse effect level (NOAEL). The adverse effect selected for this study was muscle weakness to the point the cattle could no longer remain ambulatory as would be required in a grazing environment, thus becoming sternally recumbent when exercised. Hereford steers were administered various doses of tall larkspur at 12-h intervals for 4 d or until they showed marked signs of muscle weakness. The results suggest that a dose of 2 mg kg(-1)∙d(-1) N-(methylsuccinimido) anthranoyllycoctonine (MSAL)–type alkaloids is the NOAEL for a tall larkspur population with a norditerpenoid alkaloid profile containing 4 mg MSAL-type alkaloids/g plant material and 12 mg non-MSAL-type alkaloids/g plant material. Additionally, a computer model was generated to simulate multiple-dosing regimens at the various doses as well as different dosing regimens. The results from this study suggest that a 500-kg steer can consume a daily dose of 1.25 kg of fresh tall larkspur (with a similar alkaloid profile) without becoming severely poisoned (suffering from muscle weakness to the point of recumbency). Additionally, these results indicate that a serum concentration of approximately 355 ng methyllycaconitine/mL may represent a toxic threshold.