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Slobbering in Legumes

I have heard many people talking about problems with horses slobbering while grazing a variety of forages in addition to clover. I wanted to include this to try to clear up some of the misconceptions about slobbering. The classical slobbering syndrome, caused by ingestion of slaframine, can occur on all legumes, not just clover and alfalfa. The condition incorrectly has been solely attributed to red clover. However, all clovers, including Ladino have the capabilities of harboring the fungus during periods of high moisture.

Horses grazing in pastures containing high levels of lespedeza and minimal amounts of ladino clover have encountered major slobbering problems during drought conditions! Apparently, continual short grazing just above ground level maintains a constant moisture content on the lespedeza leaflets which in turn produce the fungus that generates slaframine. The spots will appear as uncentrentric brown, golden or black rings. 

When ingested, the slaframine activates the salivary glands. Removal of the affected forage will stop the slobbering. Unfortunately, if slaframine intake continues, the horse can produce as much as 12=15 gallons of saliva daily which would cause severe dehydration and possibly death. This condition is especially serious in periods of high temperature and humidity. Although the dehydration symptoms can be treated, there is not treatment for slaframine except to eliminate it from the diet.

Pasture management does play an important role in minimizing the occurrence of slobbering. Management practices include:

Maintain less than 40% of all pastures as legumes.
Avoid consistent low clipping or grazing of legumes. Do not clip lower than 3" above ground level.
During period of high moisture, check the leaf area of all legumes for ring=like appearance.
In pastures with a high percent of legumes, develop a dry=lot holding area for use during period of extended moisture. Supplement hay while in dry lot.
If slobbering occurs, remove the horse immediately from the effected hay/pasture and supplement a grass hay, electrolytes and water. Contact your veterinarian to verify the condition.

Ben E Chase
Email : benchase@rockingh.ces.ncsu.edu 
Phone : (336) 342-8230

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