Cow Calf: This Year Test the Forage Before You Cut!

Hot dry summer weather brings about heat and drought stress on summer annuals.  Stressed plants such as the forage sorghums can occasionally accumulate dangerous concentrations of nitrates.  These high nitrate plants, either standing in the field, or fed as hay, can cause abortion in pregnant cattle, or death if consumed in great enough quantities.  Nitrates do not dissipate from suncured hay (in contrast to prussic acid), therefore once the hay is cut the nitrate levels remain constant.  Therefore, producers should test hay fields before they cut them for hay.  Stop by any OSU County Extension office for testing details.  This gives them an additional option of waiting and allowing for the nitrate to lower in concentration before harvesting the hay.  The major sources of nitrate toxicity in Oklahoma will be summer annual sorghum type plants, including sudan hybrids, sorgo-sudans, sorghum-sudans, millets, and Johnsongrass.  Other plants also may accumulate nitrates.  See OSU Fact Sheet F-2903 .

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