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Nitrates may be concern when purchasing hay

Livestock Update, January 2003

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

Because of the drought condition this summer many producers are forced to buy hay for their herds. Unfortunately, some hay is too high in nitrates to be fed to beef cattle. We have seen many samples this year that exceeded safe levels for feeding. Several producers have lost cattle to nitrate poisoning this fall. Ask for a nitrate test on purchased hay, especially hay that is from highly fertilized fields. Millet, sorghum, sudex and Johnsongrass hays are prone to high nitrate concentration because they are nitrate accumulating plants. Nitrate levels need to be below 0.5% to be safe for feeding to cattle. Tests cost $5 to $10 depending on the lab. Contact your county Extension agent for more information on proper sampling techniques and interpreting nitrate results.

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