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Hybrid grass producing cyanide - linked to mass cattle deaths.

 
Amedean Messan
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Wow.....

A farmer of an 80 acre cattle ranch has been feeding his cows hybrid grass growing on his pasture called Trifton 85. It was established approximately 15 years ago but this year mysteriously the grass started producing cyanide gas, poisoning and killing 15 of 18 cattle. Other farmers have tested their Tifton 85 grass, and several in Bastrop County have found their fields are also toxic with cyanide. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are dissecting the grass to determine if there might have been some strange, unexpected mutation.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57459357/gm-grass-linked-to-texas-cattle-deaths/
 
Daniel Morse
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OMG! Can we get some validation and published reports of this. The where and when? I believe it. GM is a time bomb that is going to kill many people and animals if we are not careful.
 
Amedean Messan
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"Coming off the drought that we had the last two years ... we're concerned it was a combination of events that led us to this," Dr. Gary Warner, an Elgin veterinarian and cattle specialist who conducted the 15 necropsies, told Kelly.


So far the Department of Agriculture has picked up the case. There are no publications that I am aware of but this strange event occurred in several ranches inside Bastrop County Texas.
 
John Polk
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O.K. This headline is scary enough that it required a little investigation.

As it turns out, the news channel reporting this story managed to get some 'facts' wrong:
Tifton 85 grass is not a GMO. It is a hybrid, but not a GMO.

Regardless of that, it is a serious problem. Many warm area ranchers have it in their pastures.

from http://www.grassfednetwork.com/grassfed-beef-hybrid-grass-goes-postal/
Let me say that Tifton 85 is not a GMO grass, it is a hybrid grass that has been used in warmer climates around the world since 1992.
The scary part about this story is the Tifton 85 spontaneously started producing cyanide gas that killed the cattle and on further research, other ranchers have found that their Tifton 85 is producing the same cyanide gas.


 
Amedean Messan
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Thanks for the clarification, I removed the term "GM" to avoid sensationalism. It seems the writers were overzealous to use politically charged terms and falsely implied that the hybrid grass was a GM.

http://www.tifton.uga.edu/fat/tifton85.htm

On further investigation I have read that there is a correlation to drought and the possibility of some grasses to produce higher concentrations of cyanide.
 
John Polk
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If it had been a GMO, we would probably be saying "What did you expect?" But being a hybrid is even more frightening. Hybrids occur naturally in nature. What if similar mutations happen in other hybrids. Probably 80-90% of all produce sold in this country is hybrid.

This could easily break some Texas ranchers. Last year's drought caused many to undersell their 1 year olds because they couldn't afford to feed them. Many had slim to no profits. And now this. Don't expect to find cheap beef in the markets this year.

So sad.

EDITED to add: This makes those native grasses look better and better.

 
Amedean Messan
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I don't like hybrids very much of any kind. I stay away from them because it is an unsustainable practice if you cannot harvest your own seed.

With regards to raising beef, there are some deep rooted native prairie grasses that are highly resilient to drought. I plan on integrating these grasses for pasture.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Yes to native grasses and also, yet another, reason to avoid monocropping. Apple seeds contain cyanide, cattle eat dropped apples - seeds and all. But in small amounts it is no big deal.

Beef cattle, just like dairy cattle and just like the rest of the animal world can eat a little bit of everything and be fine. But when we start eating a whole lot of just one thing -- well that is when the problems start.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some kinds of grass containing cyanide have been grown in Texas for years. Both Sudangrass and Johnsongrass may contain cyanide.
 
Gail Farquhar
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Finally!!! A sensible article related to this. The fear mongering and false information in the original article makes me wonder if it was put out by GMO supporters trying to discredit those reporting REAL problems with GMO's. This link will go to real, honest information about this incident.

http://pearlsnapsponderings.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/a-load-of-bull-tifton-85-bermudagrass-gmos-and-cyanide/

Prussic acid poisoning in livestock is not common but it is certainly not rare either and stargrass one of the parents of Tifton 85 is known for a tendency to be cyanogenic. Case closed, no GMO's
 
Karen Murphy
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People, please, research things a little. I know that not everyone grew up on a farm and has knowlege of these things. Many don't even understand what a hybrid is, and get all bent out of shape over utter nonsense. This grass is not GMO. It did not suddenly 'mutate' into some killing machine. Please. Drought stressed, or mechanically injured, or frosted, grasses of other types can produce cyanide which can kill livestock. So can wild cherry leaves. Or green potatoes, or lots of other things. It is mind blowing to me how many people have jumped on this without knowing a few basic facts. Livestock loss from this type of thing is nothing new, and has nothing to do with being a 'natural' vs 'hybrid' vs 'gmo'. There is so much mis-information going on in many different areas that it is getting disheartening.
 
Amedean Messan
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I think we are kind of beating a dead horse here about whether or not this is a GMO or not. I understand the acronym carries polarity politically but none the less in the larger context the grass is responsible of killing 83.33 percent of a herd of cattle on a ranch - this is alarming enough and should be more the talking point.

It did not suddenly 'mutate' into some killing machine.


I do agree that it is more likely a result of drought conditions and also the hybrid is likely sterile. As far as I understand this is still considered a case of cyanide (hydrogen cyanide or prussic acid) poisoning according field experts.

Livestock loss from this type of thing is nothing new, and has nothing to do with being a 'natural' vs 'hybrid' vs 'gmo'. There is so much mis-information going on in many different areas that it is getting disheartening.


On a similar issue, the hybrid grass was developed because it was fast growing and had a slightly higher protein content. The product was marketed as safe for cattle consumption and here we are almost 30 years later during severe drought in Texas and a major health hazard is identified. A well designed polyculture of established pasture plants would help avoid this issue.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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does anyone know why grasses like these produce the cyanide in the first place? What evolutionary benefit is there to it?

If i had to guess, I'd say that a stressed plant has a low chance of making it to the point when it can produce seed, so maybe being toxic gives it an edge during crappy conditions by sickening or killing the catttle/bison that eat it, thus it has a better chance of producing a generation for next year.

Could grasses be evolving in such a way as a result of overgrazing by cattle? After all we're all fighting for survival here... right?
 
andrew curr
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I suspect the title should read monoculture llinked to cattle deaths.
What can we use prussic acid for
I remember at shhool we used Hydrogen Cyanide for case hardening steel.
When using these plants ;introduce animals slowley, be carefull with rapidly growing or drought affected plants
 
Renate Howard
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Some farmers don't feed enough supplemental feed in droughts. I saw it here. Cattle were skinny and pastures were grazed down to the dirt. A NOT starving cow probably wouldn't eat the grass if it was high in cyanide. Around here the cattle won't eat the endophyte-contaminated fescue in summer, unless they're really hungry. I heard stories coming out of Texas of farmers who let the cattle starve down to where they couldn't survive being transported and had to be shot.

Stephen Harrod Buhner describes the complex chemical reactions plants do in reaction to their environments in one of his books (sorry don't remember which one). The first, say, third of a plant can be eaten and no toxins will be present. If it is grazed further it starts using some of its resources to make toxins to protect itself from being overgrazed. In situations like droughts the animals are forced to eat more and more of the plant until they may be poisoned. The same thing happened in Africa during a drought when lots of wild gazelles, wildebeasts, etc. died after eating too much of native trees that they had always grazed. Turned out the trees were being overgrazed and made themselves become toxic enough to kill the offending animals.

As graziers we would do well to remember that some plants have ways of protecting themselves from too much grazing pressure.
 
Devon Olsen
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interesting to say the least, though i agree with some other postings that having more of a polyculture to feed the cattle on could have stopped this problem, not to mention that feeding before releasing to a new pasture can help a lot
 
Ben Walter
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Feedipedia is a great resource when it comes to animal feedstock.

Here's their page on bermuda grass and it mentions HCN poisoning...especially after recent N fertilization

Many feedstocks can be poisonous depending on conditions and drought can definitely be a factor. I agree with the sentiment that having a large variety and plentiful feed is the best way to avoid most of these problems. I think an animal can keep itself relatively healthy if it has the opportunity.
 
Devon Olsen
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interesting, i wonder if N fertilization being a trigger for cyanide poisoning is another reason animals avoid eating grass that grows near where they poop?

im sure its nowhere near the sole reason, but an interesting thought nonetheless
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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