Drought-stressed corn may be toxic to cattle

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As if U.S. livestock producers don’t already have enough problems, they are being warned that what’s left of drought-diminished feed supplies may be toxic to cattle.

News releases from both Purdue University and the University of Missouri say that drought-stressed corn fodder may have elevated levels of nitrate, because the plant has not been able to survive long enough to convert it to protein.

University of Missouri veterinarian Tim Evans says that in normal conditions, corn crops typically absorb nitrate into only the lower 12-18 inches of the stalk, which does not have to be fed to animals. However, during severe drought conditions, high concentrations of nitrate can accumulate in the upper portions of the stalk, which cattle and other livestock often eat.

The Purdue release says that Ohio producers haven’t reported any livestock deaths from nitrate poisoning thus far this summer, but to prevent potential livestock poisoning, producers are encouraged to test their fields before feeding any chopped corn.

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