Freeze spares row crops, worries ranchers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Livestock and poultry producers have reason to be worried if the recent cold snap is an indication of a difficult winter.

Growers will have to cope with added expense to keep their birds warm, and ranchers have concerns about forage that has become tainted because of the freeze. Temperatures fell below freezing in parts of the state on Monday and Tuesday.

Susan Watkins is an extension poultry specialist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. She said the poultry industry will be using more fuel to keep birds warm so it will be increasing production costs. According to Watkins, poultry producers need to be wary of skimping on heat for young birds because a cold environment can impact health, weight gains and feed conversion.

Some forage for cattle is made toxic after a freeze, which make cattle vulnerable. Tom Troxel, University of Arkansas animal science professor, says that, with the onset of a killing frost, prussic acid poisoning becomes a concern to cattle producers. He said prussic acid is generally found in stressed plants and can cause rapid death in cattle.

Silage may contain toxic quantities of prussic acid, but it usually escapes as a gas. He said that if frosted forage is ensiled, producers should allow fermentation to take place for at least six to eight weeks before feeding.

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