Nitrate Toxicity

By Marty New

The goal of any producer is to have high quality livestock, but this cannot be done without high quality forage crops. To prevent death among the herd, cattle producers should monitor their crops for plant toxicants, particularly nitrate toxicity.

Nitrate toxicity dates back to 1895 with corn-stalk poisoning. However, nitrate was not recognized as the main toxicant until the late 1930s. Forage sorghums, sudan grasses and Johnson grass have long been identified as potential sources for nitrate toxicity.

Like prussic acid poisoning, nitrate toxicity is potentially lethal to cattle. Problems for nitrate toxicity and prussic acid poisoning occur during the same season, affect the same species and are triggered by the environmental conditions. However, there is little or no relationship between nitrate toxicity and prussic acid poisoning. They are often confused with each other since environmental conditions and animal symptoms are somewhat similar. Like prussic acid, death from nitrate toxicity is caused by asphyxiation.

Learn more about nitrate toxicity in the August issue!