Many of the cows in Montgomery County are unable to get pregnant, and of all things, it has to do with the emissions from a nearby Tennessee Valley Authority plant.
A group of students and agriculture experts have made the bizarre discovery and say it presents a huge problem for farmers and consumers.
"The real issue is we have too many cows that don't have a calf," said Montgomery County agriculture agent John Barter.
The cows are suffering from bad health and spontaneous abortion. At times, as many as 40 percent of the cows are infertile.
Some of Clarksville-Montgomery County's brightest students have been collecting data for researchers at Vanderbilt University, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service.
It has been quite a project that has yielded answers as to what is happening and why.
The TVA plant in nearby Cumberland City emits sulphur, which carries into neighboring Montgomery County and lands on the grass for the cows to eat.
The animals then start developing critical deficiencies in copper, selenium and zinc, and soon the cows are sick, infertile and dying.
It's a nasty problem for anyone who owns a farm near this type of plant.
"They burn a lot of coal there, and I certainly don't want to shut down the plant, but we have genetic defects, breeding issues and lower milk production," Barter said.
The TVA continues to attempt to scrub out more of that sulphur and adds that the sulphur does not harm humans or anything else that doesn't eat the grass.
One of the big issues in giving the cows copper supplements is if they get too much copper, it can cause all sorts of other health problems. Not only that, it can also be very difficult to diagnose.
In the meantime, consumers can expect the costs from the impact on beef and dairy production to be passed along at the grocery store.
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