Popular Grass in Missouri Harms Cattle

Grazing on Kentucky-31 fescue grass caused serious side effects for grass-fed cattle in Sweet Springs, Mo., leaving farmers to find alternative feed for their stock.


| June 25, 2013


Reposted with permission from Harvest Public Media.

Feeding cattle on grass is supposed to help the animals thrive. But Missouri’s most popular grass for feeding cattle may be doing more harm than good.

Cattleman Roger Zimmerschied spotted the problem a few years ago when he noticed that the cows on his ranch near Sweet Springs, Mo., were making an extreme mud hole out of a drainage area.

“They just stood there and they switched their tails; they threw mud up on their backs,” Zimmerschied says.

Standing in water and using mud to cool off are common signs of overheating, a symptom of the sickness that comes with grazing on Kentucky 31 tall fescue, commonly referred to as K-31. There are more serious and obvious side effects as well, especially during the winter. Some cattle lose their tails, hooves and ears because of restricted blood flow in cold temperatures.

“This grass is infected with a fungus,” says Craig Roberts, who has been studying the problem for 25 years. “It lives inside the plant, but it does release toxins that cause poor animal performance, a lot of health issues.”





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