Monday, 1 May 2017

Bingeing bovines at risk of nitrate poisoning


Summer droughts, followed by the recent heavy rainfall, will result in higher than normal nitrate levels in the soil - putting stock at increased risk of nitrate poisoning.

This is according to Ravensdown experts, Jeremy Klingender, Agronomist and Seed Product Manager, and Dr Julie Wagner, Vet and Ravensdown Animal Health Product Manager.

“Any farmer will be thrilled to see their crop or pasture shooting up after the recent rain, but the downside is that it’s likely it will be very high in nitrate levels. This can be fatal for your stock if not managed and monitored properly,” says Jeremy.

There are four key things to watch out for when identifying a paddock that should be tested: fast growing crops, younger pastures (under 21 days’ rotation), overcast days, and high soil temperatures.

“High soil temperatures speed up the conversion of ammonia to nitrate in the soil making more available for the plant and the cow. Overcast days stop the photosynthesis process and put higher nitrate levels in the pasture, especially in the mornings and evenings, that’s why early afternoon grazing is better.”

Certain plant species are more at risk of high nitrate levels such as rye grasses, brassica crops, maize and oats. Julie says it’s important to remember the hay and silages from these crops are not exempt from the toxicity issues.

“Farmers need to be herbage and feed testing before grazing, and if they have concerns they should take their stock off immediately. We can do urgent nitrate tests, which are turned around in a day, but the essential thing to do is transition your stock slowly onto paddocks and/or feeds that are high in nitrates.”

“Starting your cattle off with an hour grazing after a feed of hay or silage early to mid-afternoon means they’ll be less likely to gorge. Don’t put stock that are hungry on at-risk crops or pastures and monitor your stock closely, removing them at the first sign of trouble.”