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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Fall Snakeweed Treatment Can Protect Livestock

LAS CRUCES -- Treating poisonous broom snakeweed this fall can help ranchers in central and northern New Mexico catch the plant early in its life cycle, preventing livestock poisonings.

"We know from research about control and economics that the best time to control a snakeweed stand is when it's young," said Keith Duncan, a brush and weed control specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service

Snakeweed causes livestock abortions and reduces animal performance and productivity. The shrub chokes out desirable grasses that prevent soil erosion and provide wildlife habitat.

New Mexico's snakeweed populations are on the upswing again after dying off in the early 1990s, Duncan said. The plant has a seven- to 10-year life cycle.

While drought in much of the state has suppressed snakeweed growth, some parts of northern and central New Mexico have had enough snow and summer rain to give the plant a start.

"These snakeweed plants are young and haven't affected the grass stand to a large extent yet," Duncan said. "Ranchers will see the most impact two to three years down the road if that snakeweed continues to exert its influence." Duncan recommends treating snakeweed in the fall after it has bloomed, while the plant is actively growing. "It can be sprayed from the onset of blooming through early December, depending on the weather," he said.

Aerial or ground spraying with an approved herbicide is effective in controlling snakeweed, Duncan said. In research and demonstration trials, herbicides with the active ingredient picloram have controlled snakeweed, he said.

As with any range improvement technique, proper management following treatment is essential to reestablish and maintain good forage production.

For more information, contact the county Extension office.