Farmers dealing with “black-headed buzzards” attacking calves

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 5:48 PM CDT
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SHARP COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Whether you call them buzzards or vultures, you’ve likely come across them on the roadway.

While the birds can be annoying, they’re creating a problem for farmers in Northeast Arkansas.

Colton Asberry has been a lifelong farmer in Sharp County.

Asberry said he’s consistently dealt with what’s known as “black-headed buzzards” swooping in and harming or even killing his calves just after birth.

“At birth, there’ll be 10-15. They’re aggressive. The cows can’t fight them off,” Asberry explained. “I’ve seen them poke the eyeballs out. It’s pretty gruesome what they’ll do in a matter of minutes.”

While it’s against Arkansas law to kill the buzzards without a permit, Asberry said there aren’t many options to try and keep them away.

“You just have to be there. It’s hard with this many cattle to be there all the time, but if you can be there and help the cow fight them off and run the buzzards off, that’s been what we have to do,” Asberry said.

When Asberry or other farm hands aren’t available, he’s forced to leave the calves as prey to the buzzards.

“I’ve lost two calves this year. I’d say between three to five a year for me personally. Cattle prices are at record highs, so it cuts into a livelihood,” Asberry said.

Sharp County U of A Extension Office Agent Cody Stroud said a program is available to help farmers with the issue.

“There is a program through the Arkansas Farm Bureau called the Black Vulture Depredation Permit. This allows you to kill three black vultures that are depredating on livestock,” Stroud said.

Asberry explained he has looked into getting a permit in the past but wished more options were available to fight the buzzards.