Problem = Choking (cattle)
Whole, small potato tubers can cause choking when consumed whole.
Solutions = Crush, slice or preferably chop the potato tubers. If tub grinders are used, add small amounts of hay or straw to avoid clogging. Rocks and hard soil clumps may be a problem when processing potatoes. Some cattle producers report good results by using old silage cutters or snow blowers. Crushing may be accomplished by spreading potato tubers on a concrete slab and driving over them with heavy farm machinery. Allowing potatoes to freeze and thaw will cause softening and shrinking, thereby lessening the danger. Freezing and thawing throughout the winter can replace crushing or discing potatoes. Choking does not seem to be a problem when feeding potatoes to sheep.
Problem = Greening
Sun-greened and light-sprouted potato tubers produce a glycoalkaloid called ‘solanine’ that can cause sickness and death. Symptoms of solanine poisoning are staring eyes, dilated pupils, staggering, and weakness. High exposure can lead to death and may cause the termination of pregnancy in cows.
Solutions = Ensiling eliminates the problem. Allowing tubers before turning green to freeze and thaw during winter storage will eliminate the problem; however, some spoilage could occur. Mixing potatoes with straw will limit light exposure, disrupt greening and keep potatoes dry. Mechanically de-sprouting tubers eliminates the solanine source. Note: Cattle getting into potato fields with vines may be exposed to solanine by feeding on the potato berries and vines. They also may be poisoned by nightshade weeds containing more dangerous glycoalkaloids. Cattle should not graze in a potato field until the vines are removed and unless potato tubers are not exposed to light.
Problem = Overfeeding or Acidosis Disorders
Raw potatoes ferment in the rumen very rapidly. When raw potatoes are fed in excess of half of the ration dry matter, acidosis may be a problem, especially if introduced too rapidly in the ration.
Solutions = Limit potatoes to less than 50 percent of the ration dry matter and introduce the ration gradually.
Problem = Palatability (sheep)
Sheep may not find potatoes palatable at first.
Solution = Gradually introduce potatoes into the feed until two pounds per day is reached. Note: Some sheep develop a strong appetite for potatoes and may overeat, risking acidosis.
Problem = Diseases or pesticide residues = NOT PROBLEMS
a. No potato diseases or rots affect livestock.
b. Pesticide residues are not a problem with potatoes.
Problem = Problems for potato grower
Potato piles may be sources for late blight and potato viruses that might infect the following year’s potato crop.
Solutions = Plant the next year’s potato field as far away as possible from potato piles being used for livestock. Keep an eye on sprouting which may carry pathogens. Encourage destroying of piles by chopping, crushing, freezing/thawing, and/or ensiling.
Using Potato as Livestock Feed