A mysterious mass death of a herd of cattle has prompted a federal investigation in Central Texas. Preliminary test results are blaming the deaths on the grass the cows were eating when they got sick, reports CBS Station KEYE.

The cows dropped dead several weeks ago on an 80-acre ranch owned by Jerry Abel in Elgin, just east of Austin. The grass is a genetically-modified form of Bermuda known as Tifton 85 which has been growing here for 15 years, feeding Abel’s 18 head of Corriente cattle. Corriente are used for team roping because of their small size and horns.

“When we opened that gate to that fresh grass, they were all very anxious to get to that,” said Abel.

Three weeks ago, the cattle had just been turned out to enjoy the fresh grass, when something went terribly wrong.

“When our trainer first heard the bellowing, he thought our pregnant heifer may be having a calf or something,” said Abel. “But when he got down here, virtually all of the steers and heifers were on the ground. Some were already dead, and the others were already in convulsions.” Within hours, 15 of the 18 cattle were dead. Preliminary tests revealed the Tifton 85 grass, which has been here for years, had suddenly started producing cyanide gas, poisoning the cattle.

“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.

  1. BigBoyBC says:

    Probably some enviro-nut dumped some sort of poison in the field as a political statement. They never seem to care what the do to the environment when it comes to the “cause”.

    • LittleManONT says:

      Does BigBoyBC means fat_young male_bred_cow? Why do you advertise fat?

      About the story: Probably someone tried to make money before they they were certain of the side effects, just for the “cause”. The “cause” is making money at any cost I guess?

      • BigBoyBC says:

        Does LittleManONT refer to the size of you penis or your brain? What am I saying, in your case, they’re one and the same.

        It’s apparent that my post touched a nerve,you must be one of those enviro-nuts I was referring to. Maybe you should go back to doing something you’re good at, like downloading porn and touching yourself, little man.

  2. Cliffyp says:

    As is typical with the media, the facts in this article are given incorrectly. This misrepresents this grass as GMO. The result is people get riled up, spoutting off about the evil of GMO’s, then after sufficient broo haa, Monsanto or others will come out and say “hey buffoons, this isn’t a GMO”. This makes all the people who spouted off about GMO look dumb and helps legitimize future use of GMO’s

    There are some real concerns with GMO’s and Monsanto and others are committing some real evil in this world, but it’s important we get the facts straight or we discredit ourselves.

    This grass, “Tifton 85”, is a hybrid. There is nothing wrong with hybrids. Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat everyday are hybrids. Heirloom strains of plants were once hybrids. Hybrids result we too plant strains cross through natural plant reproduction. The resultant strain in called an F1 generation. An example from the animal world is breeding a horse and a donkey to get a mule. This isn’t evil. You get some of the qualities of each parent, temperament of the horse and strength of the donkey, same thing with hybrid plants. The down side is, like the mule, many hybrids are sterile or their offspring (F2 generation) are not the same quality as the original, so to get more you have to keep interbreeding the two different parent strains. Sometimes a hybrid will has replicable results and a new stain is started. This new strain eventually becomes and heirloom strain.

  3. LibertyLover says:

    I’m sure there is a disclaimer in the Monsanto contract that says Cyanide Gas may be produced if drought conditions exist for more than 3 months.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  4. duh365 says:

    I’m looking forward to this myself. I’ve been wanting a third eye or an additional arm to get work done a little quicker.

  5. Pays2Think says:

    I love it when all these bird brains think we can actually control and understand all the nuance’s of the physical world. Oh, they can’t and they don’t really care what they screw up or what they kill as long as they can make a buck.

  6. CPBrown says:

    As noted, this story is *way* up on the BS meter.

    It’s the old Mark Twain truism that a lie will go all around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

  7. Scott M. says:

    The grass is not the first place I would look.

    I would look at the chemicals used to fertilize the 15 year old field, their residual amounts, the contribution of soil chemistry to possible routes to HCN production, the water sources and any evidence of sub-surface methane gas releases.

    Knowing that the cattle died in the field may be secondary. Perhaps the field was producing cyanide gas all along and there were no animals there to register the effects.

  8. sargasso_c says:

    It takes a lot to kill a steer. To kill 15 at once would take huge amounts of highly toxic “gas”. Definitely lethal to humans who might working the herd.

  9. dcphill says:

    What an interesting read and education. Lesson learned: don’t get misconscrewed.

  10. deowll says:

    Something like this has happened before. They found a strain of hay that grew well in pastures. It thrived like crazy when nothing else did. Agricultural extension agents had farmers planting the stuff everywhere. They were a little slow in figuring out the reason why the stuff did so well was that it had a symbiotic relationship with a toxic fungus so the cows avoided eating it unless they were badly starved at which time they died.

  11. A Wonk says:

    Aliens !

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think most people are confused. Hybrid plants have been around since the times of Jesus! Maybe even earlier.

    What most people are probably thinking of here is gene splicing, which is very different.

    You may have heard of “franken corn”? That was a product where certain mosquito genes were spliced with corn to help the corn resist pests. The only thing is, it’s now nearly impossible to find pure corn anywhere on planet earth that hasn’t been messed with. Sort of makes you want to eat more taco’s now, doesn’t it? And you can thank companies like Monsanto for this “improvement” too. (Personally, I’m outraged.)

    So when we hear of cattle dropping dead after eating hybrid grass there has to be something else going on that the investigators either don’t know or won’t tell.

    The culprit that killed these cattle was said to be HCN gas. Problem is, HCN occurs naturally and simply can’t be produced by any plants with any serious toxicity levels. In fact, you will have more HCN in a natural apple (the fruit) than any grass. So it’s not likely that the grass was really at fault. It’s much more likely that the grass had some kind of fertilizer on it or the ground had some kind of other chemical that the cattle were ingesting. Cause about the only way a hybrid grass is going to kill is if it’s frozen and shot like an arrow through a vital organ.

    Then again, maybe it was those anal probing UFO’s again.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Hydrogen cyanide poisoning is called prussic acid poisoning with livestock and is deadly. It is a recognized risk with all grazing mammals.

      I don’t think that the problem was HCN in the air. The molecules would have been in the grasses.

      There have been other reports throughout Texas of this, but no other reports of cattle deaths.

  13. Sheila says:

    Is it just me…….. but doesn’t it look like Monsanto is a
    euguenitics corp??

    Thing they make kill people and that seems to be their intention!


  14. /T. says:

    Excerpt from :


    Understanding Prussic Acid Poisoning

    A number of common plants may accumulate large quantities of prussic acid (cyanogenic compounds). Sorghums and related species readily accumulate these compounds. These cyanogenic compounds are located in epidermal cells (outer tissue) of the plant, while the enzymes which enable prussic acid production are located in the mesophyll cells (leaf tissue).

    Any event that causes the plant cell to rupture allowing the cyanogenic compound and the enzyme to combine will produce prussic acid. Plant cells can be ruptured by cutting, wilting, freezing, drought, crushing, trampling, chewing, or chopping. Once plants containing prussic acid have been consumed, the toxin rapidly enters the blood stream and is transported throughout the body of the animal. Prussic acid inhibits oxygen utilization by the cells in the animal’s body. In essence, the animal suffocates. Ruminant animals (cattle and sheep) are more susceptible to prussic acid poisoning than non-ruminant animals because the ruminal microorganisms have enzymes which will release prussic acid in the animal’s digestive tract.

    I’m no fan of (the way too powerful) Monsanto but Prussic Acid Poisoning can be pretty serious …


  15. Uncle Patso says:

    Just a little research shows LibertyLover is correct — Tifton 85 is a Bermuda grass hybrid, not a GMO. Prussic acid poisoning is a known issue with several kinds of forage plants, especially when the plants are under drought stress. What happened here is extremely rare, but not completely unheard of.


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