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Protect your herd - watch out for prussic acid

Protect your herd - watch out for prussic acid

By Jamie Martin

The summer heat brings not only sunshine but also potential dangers for cattle. The Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension service is urging ranchers to be aware of prussic acid poisoning, a serious threat associated with grazing on certain sorghum plants.

Prussic acid, a toxic compound, is present in some sorghum species, particularly Johnsongrass, a prevalent invasive plant in Oklahoma. The risk of poisoning is heightened during hot and dry periods when prussic acid levels in these plants increase.

While Johnsongrass poses the most significant threat, other sorghum varieties may also contain prussic acid. Ranchers are advised to identify the specific type of sorghum before allowing cattle to graze.

Symptoms of prussic acid poisoning in cattle include muscle tremors, excessive salivation, labored breathing, convulsions, and collapse. Immediate veterinary attention is critical if these signs are observed.

Here are some key steps ranchers can take to prevent prussic acid poisoning -

Forage testing - Before introducing cattle to any sorghum pasture, have the forage tested by your local OSU Extension office to determine prussic acid levels.

Grazing management - Avoid turning hungry cattle onto a new sorghum pasture. Introduce them gradually and monitor their behavior closely.

Soil management - Take soil samples and fertilize pastures appropriately to promote healthy plant growth, potentially reducing prussic acid levels.

Rotational grazing - Regularly rotate pastures to prevent cattle from overgrazing young, fast-growing sorghum, which may have higher prussic acid concentrations.

By following these practices and staying vigilant about prussic acid risks, ranchers can ensure the safety of their cattle herds throughout the summer grazing season.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-imaginegolf

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