Cattle Deaths Due to Toxic Forage

More than 50 cattle deaths reported in Arkansas from cattle feeding on forage poisoned by drought or toxic weeds

Published on: Aug 29, 2012

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 last week 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

More than 50 cattle deaths reported in Arkansas from cattle feeding on forage poisoned by drought or toxic weeds.
More than 50 cattle deaths reported in Arkansas from cattle feeding on forage poisoned by drought or toxic weeds.

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.

Meanwhile Division of Agriculture animal science faculty will be meeting with cattlemen on Thursday at Melbourne in Izard County, and on Sept. 6 at Pocahontas. For information about those meetings, contact your county extension office.

Find more information about drought and livestock at http://arkansasdroughtresourcecenter.wordpress.com/ or http://arkansaslivestockdotcom.wordpress.com/.