From Staff Reports
Laboratory testing confirmed that 29 head of cattle found dead in Cross Roads last week were the victims of nitrate poisoning.
Both the animals and the hay they were eating tested toxic for nitrate poisoning, Henderson County AgriLife Extension Agent Rick Hirsch said Tuesday.
“That is as conclusive as it can be,” he said.
The loss to the cattleman totaled around $30,000, Hirsch added.
“It’s tragic when it occurs, but it is an uncommon event. It is unfortunate it affected this one producer so heavily.”
Nitrate poisoning is a common concern for cattle producers. Nitrate is naturally consumed by growing plants; however when growth is interrupted, the roots of plants will continue to provide nitrate from soil, and unless new plant growth occurs, the nitrate will accumulate, which can often result in nitrate poisoning.
Hirsch knows the dangers of high nitrate for cattle. “High enough nitrate can drop a cow in an hour,” he said.
“Hay can be tested, but is no guarantee that it will be safe, unless you test every bale, individually, which isn’t cost-effective,” he added.
According to a fact sheet from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, “Although uncommon in normal years, these poisonings occur when cattle eat forages stressed from severe environmental conditions such as drought.”
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.