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Heat blamed in Arkansas cattle, fish, bird deaths

Heat blamed for Arkansas livestock deaths. Fish producers working to keep stock’s appetite up.

Record heat is being blamed on the deaths of cattle in Arkansas’ White and Cleburne counties, as well as other livestock around the state, officials said on June 29.

Earlier in the week, a 39-year-old man working on construction at the University of Arkansas died from the heat.

“There have been two confirmed cases of cattle death due to hydrocyanic acid or prussic acid in Arkansas,” said Tom Troxel, associate head-Animal Science, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The deaths were confirmed by the state Livestock and Poultry Commission.

“Prussic acid is generally found in stressed forage plants,” he said. “When growth is depressed by adverse environmental conditions, such as drought or frost, prussic acid poisoning becomes a real concern.”

Dustan Clark, Extension veterinarian, said “I have been getting reports of backyard flocks having mortality from the heat.”

He’s also had owners report the loss of rabbits and pond fish. Heat is the chief suspect in some turkey deaths as well.

Nathan Stone, Extension aquaculture specialist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said “Excessive heat can be a problem for catfish farmers. It takes a prolonged period of hot temperatures -- several weeks” for water temperatures to become dangerous.

“A number of years ago, some farmers did have losses to excessive heat. For now, farmers end up having to feed earlier in the day” to keep fish out of the warm layer of surface water.

When the pond water heats up, the “feeding response can be lessened by the hot water. Less feed consumed, less gain,” Stone said.

On June 28, heat records were set at:

  • Russellville, 109. Broke the record of 105 set in 1952.
  • Batesville, 108 degrees. Broke record of 102 set in 1944.
  • Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base, 107. Broke record of 100 set in 1980.
  • Harrison, 106. Broke record of 105 set in 1936.
  • North Little Rock, 105. Broke record of 101 set in 1980.
  • Hot Springs, 105. Broke record of 102 set in 1988.
  • Fayetteville, 101. Broke record of 100 set in 1954.
  • Mount Ida, 101. Tied the record set in 1936.

And there was one record low was set Thursday at Batesville of 55 degrees. The old record of 57 degrees was set in 2006.

For more information about drought management, contact your county Extension office or visit

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