Tests are being run to determine the cause of death of more than two-dozen cattle found on a ranch near Cross Roads Tuesday.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office received a call at about 8:30 a.m. concerning the discovery of the dead cattle at a ranch located off Farm-to-Market Road 3273.

 Deputies arrived at the ranch where they learned that about 30 deceased cattle had been found.

The Henderson County Veterinary Clinic was contacted to determine what had caused the deaths. Tissue samples were gathered to be sent to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab at Texas A&M University, where a necropsy will be performed.

A necropsy is used in cases involving animals deaths, whereas an autopsy would be conducted concerning the death of a human.

Samples of the hay the animals had been eating were also gathered for testing, to see if it contributed to the death. Henderson County Agri-Life Extension Agent Rick Hirsch said  results of the tests would could be available by the end of the week.

Hirsch said a possible cause of the deaths is nitrate poisoning. According to the Texas A&M Extension website, periods of rainy and cloudy weather after a drought are likely times for nitrate poisoning to appear. When nitrate levels are high in forages, high levels of nitrites are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the rumen wall.

The rumen is sometimes referred to as the paunch. The nitrite converts the hemoglobin in the blood into a form that cannot transport oxygen.

Whether nitrate poisoning turns out to be confirmed as the cause of death for the Cross Roads cattle, it is a reminder, Ag officials say, to be sure to get hay tested, especially after a drought period.

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