Farmers urged to assess the toxicity of feed and pasture for nitrates

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BILLINGS – As the drought in our area intensifies, educators at Montana State University Extension are urging ranchers to assess the toxicity of nitrates in feed and pasture.

Montana Agriculture Network: Farmers urged to assess nitrate toxicity in feed and pasture

“With the conditions, our normal forage and grasses are short and dry,” said Mike Schuldt, MSU Custer County Extension Officer. “So cows are looking for something green and that tends to be our kind of weed. All of our annual weeds, such as kochia, quarter lamb, Canada thistle, and Russian thistle tend to be a riskier type of grazing species. This is what we warn the ranchers, if that sounds like what the cows are going through, we have to be careful and recognize that there are some risks.

Water availability has also become severely limited and many livestock reservoirs have dried up completely or barely contain water, which can also be dangerous for livestock.

“It’s a risky time for the cattle, especially with the water,” Schuldt said. “We did a lot of water testing and not just this extension office, but the whole region. We have already seen cases of blue-green algae this year, which is quite risky for livestock. We need to keep the cattle out of the blue-green algae water. Total Dissolved Solids is what we measure in the office and it has been raised to these risky levels. “

Symptoms of nitrate toxicity in cattle include panting, muscle tremors, weakness and wobbling. During this drought, pastoralists are encouraged to have their feed and water tested at their local MSU extension office before taking livestock out to ensure they stay healthy and safe.

If these symptoms are too present, remove feed containing nitrates or move livestock off the pasture and contact a veterinarian immediately for a treatment plan.


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