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Oct. 30, 2020
By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
(312 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK — With the arrival of low fall temperatures hinting at the winter surely
on its way, ranchers and pasture managers should be keeping an eye on what their cattle
are grazing, experts with the University of Arkansas System Division of Arkansas cautioned
John Jennings, extension forage specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said that
scattered frosts will likely be occurring across the state over the next few weeks
and will increase toxicity risk when grazing pastures containing johnsongrass.
“When johnsongrass becomes stressed, it can produce prussic acid, also known as hydrocyanic
acid, which is very toxic to livestock,” Jennings said. “Prussic acid toxicity can
kill cattle quickly, often before a producer has a chance to observe that the animal
is under stress.”
Forages prone to prussic acid are johnsongrass, sorghum, sudangrass, Green Graze (a
family of hybrid varieties), grain sorghum and forage sorghum, Jennings said. Freeze
damage from fall frosts can cause these forages to become toxic.
When frosts do occur, all is not lost, Jennings said — the forages just need time
to dry out, allowing the prussic acid time to dissipate.
“These forages should not be grazed following a hard frost until the plants become
completely dried out and brown paper colored,” Jennings said. “Do not graze at night
when frost is likely. To reduce risk even further, don’t turn hungry cattle directly
out on johnsongrass pasture. Make sure they have grazed other forages first or fill
them up on hay.
“Properly dried johnsongrass hay does not contain prussic acid and is safe to feed,”
While silage may contain toxic quantities of prussic acid, it usually escapes in gaseous
form while being moved and fed. If frosted forage is ensiled or wrapped in plastic
as baleage, Jennings said producers should allow the fermentation to take place for
at least six weeks before feeding it to livestock.
To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative
Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
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,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media contact:Ryan McGeeneyCommunications ServicesUniversity of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com