Nitrates suspected in death of 29 cattle in Cross Roads

Posted by : admin | On : December 28, 2011

By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff

Henderson County Agrilife Extension Agent Rick Hirsch confirmed that 29 head of cattle were found dead Tuesday morning in Cross Roads.
Hirsch said officials suspect nitrate poisoning from tainted hay.

“Although uncommon in normal years, these poisonings occur when cattle eat forages stessed from severe environmental conditions such as drought,” according to a fact sheet from the Texas Agrilife Extension Service.

Texas has had nothing if not drought this year.

In a report to the Legislature in October, State Climatologist John W. Nielsen-Gammon wrote, “This drought has been the most intense one-year drought in Texas since at least 1895 when statewide weather records begin, and though it is difficult to compare droughts of different durations, it probably already ranks among the five worst droughts overall.”

In the Cross Roads case, Hirsch said officials think the cattle ate hay that had a high level of nitrate.

“High enough nitrate can drop a cow in an hour,” he said.

Tissue samples from the cattle and core samples from the suspected hay were sent to laboratories for analysis.

Hirsch warned area producers and livestock owners to make sure and test hay, particularly since many were forced to purchase hay from unknown sources this year because of the drought.

He said the most susceptible forages include: Johnson grass, milo stubble, forage sorghum, and sudan grass.