News & Advice

Nitrate Poisoning

Apr 5, 2019 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare

Plan and prevent nitrate poisoning in your stock 

Every year we see the preventable death of animals due to nitrate poisoning.

Risk factors include: 

!  Feeding certain feeds such as new grass, brassicas, sorghum, tama and oats;
!  Periods of warm, wet, overcast conditions, especially after a dry spell.

However, with careful planning, you can manage high-risk feeds during this period to prevent nitrate poisoning

  • DO check nitrate levels of high-risk feed before starting to feed it out 
  • Nitrate testing kits are available from your nearest clinic 
  • Collect samples first thing in the morning and bring them into Anexa for testing 
  • DO feed alternative feeds such as hay or other grass in the morning 
  • DO wait until early afternoon to feed high-risk feed 
  • DO NOT feed high-risk feeds first thing in the morning 
  • Nitrate levels increase overnight so are highest in the morning 
  • Sunlight helps to reduce nitrate levels during the day 
  •  DO NOT feed high-risk feeds on an empty stomach 
  • Concentrated amounts that are quickly eaten are more likely to cause poisoning 
  • DO NOT feed high-risk feed for a long period – NO MORE THAN 1.5 to 2 hours! 

Most importantly, keep a close eye on stock after feeding high-risk feeds for signs of nitrate poisoning – these are usually apparent within 3 – 4 hours of feeding. 

Signs include: 

!  lethargy,
!  rapid and open-mouth breathing
going down and becoming bloated
!  and in worst cases, death.

If you see any of these signs, call your vet IMMEDIATELY. If treated early, an antidote can be administered to save animals’ lives. However, if left untreated, cows can die very quickly.


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