A mysterious mass death of a herd of cattle has prompted a federal investigation in Central Texas. Jerry Abel opens the gate on his 80-acre ranch in Elgin, walking on a field of grass he’s been using for cattle grazing and hay for 15 years.
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. Within hours, 15 of the 18 cattle were dead. ”That was very traumatic to see, because there was nothing you could do, obviously, they were dying,” said Abel.
Dr. Gary Warner, an Elgin veterinarian who specializes in cattle, conducted the 15 necropsy. Preliminary tests revealed the Tifton 85 grass, which has been here for years, had suddenly started producing cyanide gas, poisoning the cattle.
What is even more worrisome – other farmers have tested their Tifton 85 grass, and several in Bastrop County have found their fields are also toxic with cyanide, although no other cattle have died.