Cattle deaths from drought-stressed forage confirmed
More than 50 cattle deaths due to forage made poisonous by drought or toxic weeds have been confirmed in Arkansas, said Tom Troxel, associate head-animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"It's another blow to our livestock owners in an already excruciatingly difficult year," Troxel said Tuesday. "With an average value of $900 per head, that's a loss of $45,900."
There were another 112 deaths with unconfirmed causes.
Troxel said the reports were in response to an informal survey of county Extension agents in Arkansas. In June, there were two cattle deaths reported. (See www.uaex.edu/news/june2012/0629ArkDeadlyForage.html.)
There were 46 deaths due to prussic acid, a cyanide compound found in drought- or frost-stressed johnsongrass, sorghum or sudangrass. Those 46 were in Benton, Dallas, Hempstead, Saline, Sharp, Van Buren, Washington and White counties.
There was one confirmed death due to nitrate poisoning in Little River County. Nitrates can concentrate in a variety of plants such as johnsongrass, perilla mint, acorns, pigweed and wild cherry leaves.
Four deaths due to cattle eating poisonous weeds were confirmed in Howard and Baxter counties.
All cases were confirmed by veterinarians or diagnostic lab.
Cattle with little else to feed can be tempted by plants they would normally ignore. See Troxel's article "Managing cattle during drought" at http://arkansaslivestockdotcom.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/managing-cattle-during-drought.
Find more information about drought and livestock at http://arkansasdroughtresourcecenter.wordpress.com.