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Grazing Johnson grass after a frost can be dangerous to your livestock.
Nashville, Ark. – As we start getting into colder temperatures, and frost will start
occurring across the state, what happens to Johnson grass? And why does it become
dangerous to graze Johnson grass?
When Johnson grass becomes stressed, it can produce a toxin called prussic acid also known as hydrocyanic acid, which is very toxic to livestock. Before a producer
sees that his cattle are under stress from prussic acid, the cattle will die from
Besides Johnson grass there are other forages that can produce prussic acid. Sorghum/Sudan,
Green graze, Grain Sorghum, and forage Sorghum all can produce prussic acid. When
these forages become stressed from frost, they can become toxic. These forages should
not be grazed after a hard frost until the plants become completely dried out. You
want the forages to be a paper brown color when dried out.
John Jennings extension forage specialist says, “To reduce risk even farther, do not
graze at night when frost is likely, don’t turn hungry cattle directly out on a Johnson
grass pasture. Make sure they have grazed other forages first or fill them up on hay.
Prussic acid dissipates as the plants dry out. Properly dried Johnson grass hay does
not contain prussic acid and is safe to feed. Silage may contain toxic quantities
of prussic acid, but it usually escapes in a gaseous form while being moved and fed.
If frosted forage is ensiled, allow fermentation to take place for at least six weeks
For more information call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 and ask
for Carlie Bothum. You may also request a copy of FSA 3069 on Prussic Acid.
By Carlie Bothum County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carlie Bothum County Extension Agent - AgricultureU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service421 N. Main Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
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