Scary Grass Story
After 15 years of use, hybrid bermuda grass kills cattle?
Worse than that, other ranchers have tested and found the same problem.
In this story, taken from K-EYE TV in Austin TX, that you might find unbelievable, this rancher in Central Texas lost 15 of his 18 head of cattle from grazing grass they had been grazing for 15 years. If you are a grassfed beef producer, then this story should be very disturbing to you.
After 15 years of grazing this same pasture seeded with Tifton 85, Jerry Able turned his cattle in for the first time this year. The cows were ready to get after the fresh green grass that was waiting for them. In a very short time, the bawling started. Thinking that a heifer was having her calf, the trainer ran back out to the pasture to find ALL of the cattle laying on the ground bellowing. In the story from K-EYE TV they blame the problem on genetically modified grass. 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.
When other rancher herd about this issue, they also started testing their Tifton 85 and several have found their grass is producing the same cyanide grass.
Since the accusation has been made that Tifton 85 is a GMO grass, let me define hybrid for you from the Encyclopedia:
An individual plant or animal resulting from a cross between parents of differing genotypes. Strictly, most individuals in an outbreeding population are hybrids, but the term is more usually reserved for cases in which the parents are individuals whose genomes are sufficiently distinct for them to be recognized as different species or subspecies. Good examples include the mule, produced by cross-breeding an ass and a horse (each of which can breed true as a species) and Spartina townsendii, produced by cross-breeding Spartina maritima (British cord grass) and the North American species Spartina alterniflora (each of which can breed true as a species). Hybrids may be fertile or sterile, depending on qualitative and/or quantitative differences in the genomes of the two parents. Hybrids like Spartina townsendii, whose parents are of different species, are sterile but generally reproduce vegetatively.
The fact that this grass is not genetically modified does not make the story any easier to understand. This is a rather concerning event for any rancher and especially a grassfed beef producer. What happened? HOW did it happen? Probably most importantly, How do we correct it and keep it from happening again? This story should stand as a good reminder that we have to stay vigilant and for me, this is a really strong promoter of multi-species pastures instead of monoculture.
Unfortunately, K-EYE TV has take the original story down: