Suther's Perspective

Feeding during a winter storm

Before the first winter storm arrives; let’s examine some of the hidden dangers that may persist when feeding “the good hay” through winter weather. For most the harvested forage of choice during and after a winter storm includes some for of forage sorghum variety.  These forages are notorious for harboring nitrates, especially after a drought ridden summer.  Thus it is paramount to have these forages tested for nitrates and if the tests come back high, “adapting” the cattle by feeding small increasing amounts of these forages over time can help to alleviate the burden.  However, this is not a 100% sure fire method to quelling the dangers of nitrate toxicity.

Given that our best intentions are always in mind when dealing with our herds.  Feeding of these hays is a necessity to maintain body weight and body condition when our cattle are stressed by winter weather.  Their appetites will be larger since they may have not grazed and thus when we put our harvested forages out we should watch cattle for 8 to 12 hours post feeding.

Signs of nitrate toxicity include;

  • panting
  • staggering
  • disorientation
  • any other sign of asphyxiation.
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