Ask the Vet

Non-Toxic Landscaping Screens

Many landscaping plants can be toxic to grazing farm animals. (Photo from Campbell's Nursery, Nebraska, website)


I want to plant a landscaping screen that won't be toxic to goats, sheep, cattle, and horses. I live in Ohio and need a species that gives full, tall blockage and stays green year-round. Because of property line constraints, the plants have to be in my actual pasture. I've done research, and even asked my local farm agent, but I can't find anything that isn't potentially poisonous to grazing farm animals. Any ideas?


Many years ago, a reader asked the same question. I contacted a local landscape expert and he suggested Elaeagnus. After this was published, I was "educated" by readers that it is an invasive species from Asia and that it can, and often does, spread into unintended areas. Chinese Privet was another hedge from another era that has gone rogue in our area.

I contacted an Extension veterinarian in Ohio to get suggestions for your area. While he noted he was not an expert in poisonous plants, he suggested planting fast-growing pines, such as Norway Spruce, or arborvitae. Arborvitae is commonly used in flat areas of Ohio as windscreens.

These would be fast-growing, stay green all year and provide privacy once they are tall enough. A temporary fence would probably be needed to allow the hedge to develop early. He said that grazing animals could possibly eat enough of them to get sick, but he had never seen an issue.

Remember that whatever you decide to plant, you need something that fits your local climate and soils and will "behave" as they grow and develop. One of our best resources here are our readers, so I'd like to ask them to share ideas about what has worked for them in similar situations.

Editor's Note:

Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd or other animals. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask the Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email