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Drought brings worry for cattle and hay producers
Special to The Monitor
KAUFMAN–Besides the effect of reduced production due to lack of moisture, drought also creates other negative aspects for cattle and hay producers.
Warm-season annual grasses, such as forage sorghums, sorghum-sudan hybrids (haygrazer types), and the various millets can also accumulate nitrates to a level that is toxic to cattle during periods of dry weather.
Typical nitrate accumulation occurs with excessive N fertilization, followed by a period of drought, although toxic levels of nitrates have been observed in warm-season annual grasses with as little as 50 pounds of N/ac under drought conditions.
While aboveground plant growth is reduced, nitrate uptake continues to occur and concentrates in the forage tissue.
Ruminants are affected because microbes in the rumen are able to convert nitrate to nitrite.
Nitrite is then absorbed into the bloodstream, where it converts hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the bloodstream, into methemoglobin, which does not carry oxygen. Cattle death is due to asphyxiation.
The total level of nitrate in forage will determine whether or not the forage is safe to feed. Remember:
Nitrate levels in hay do not diminish with time! Nitrate levels, however, in silage, may be reduced by 50 percent or more, but may still be excessive for safe feeding.
Only a forage analysis for nitrate (currently $5 at the Texas A&M University Soil Testing Lab) will determine whether or not the fresh forage, hay, or silage is safe to feed to livestock.
Nitrate levels of 5,000 ppm or greater may be dangerous to feed to animals, and greater than 15,000 ppm are toxic to most classes of livestock.
The official Texas A&M University advisory is to not feed forages that contain greater than 10,000 ppm nitrate.
The more conservative number of 5,000 ppm, however, may be a much safer number to use in actual practice.
Producers using warm-season annual forages or Johnson grass should have their hay crops tested prior to harvesting.
Look at the forages carefully. If the forage to be harvested for hay has been under drought stress, there is a good likelihood that it is high in nitrates.
If a good precipitation event occurs and plant growth is reinitiated (good green color, no droopy leaves), then the forage may be safe to feed, but a forage analysis for nitrate would still be advisable.
Do not harvest the forage and then test! To do so could wind up costing you time, effort, and money and result in a hay crop that you will not be able to feed.
Likewise, cattle should not be pastured on warm-season annual grasses or Johnson grass if conditions are such that nitrate levels could be elevated to a toxic level.
Again, only a forage analysis can determine if the forage is safe to graze.
If nitrate toxicity was not enough to worry about, there is also the issue of prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) poisoning.
Forages belonging to the genus Sorghum can produce prussic acid following light frosts or drought.
In well-cured hay crops, prussic acid is not a concern. since volatilization of the compound into the atmosphere occurs during the field curing process.
Cattle, however, may succumb to prussic acid poisoning while grazing if plants have been subjected to drought stress.
Again, do not turn cattle into pastures of drought-stressed sorghums or Johnson grass.
Wait until better growing conditions before pasturing cattle on any stressed warm-season annual plant or Johnson grass.
Millets, while still capable of accumulating nitrates to a toxic level, do not produce prussic acid.
As cattle producers, it is bad enough that dry weather conditions have reduced forage production, and in some cases, surface water supplies.
Not paying attention to the weather conditions and the forages that can cause the death of animals due to nitrate accumulation and prussic acid poisoning, can only make matters worse.
If you are in doubt, or have additional questions, please contact Ralph S. Davis, County Extension
Agent - Kaufman County, at (972) 563-0233.
 

Tejas seeks new members
Special to The Monitor
MABANK–The Sovereign Cherokee nation Tejas is seeking native American people and others with native American ancestors who would be interested in joining Tejas.
Anyone interested please contact the administrative office.
The mailing address is P.O. Box 5266, Mabank TX 75147.
Phone number is (903) 887-9500.
Office is located at 105 Mt. Vernon St. in Mabank.
Business hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

 

KISD sets changes in medication policy
Special to the Monitor
KEMP–In the interest of continued excellence and safety for Kemp Independent School District students, KISD has adopted a policy that allows over-the-counter medications to be given only with a doctor’s note and a parent note.
The note will be kept on file during the current school year only.
As always, parents or their designee are welcome to come administer any medications to their child after checking in at the office.
If a child has regular headaches or other problems, parents are advised when they take the student in for an annual check-up, to be sure to get a note from the physician for any medications to be given at school.
When getting prescription medications filled, be sure to get two bottles, one for school and one for home, as no student will be allowed to transport any medications.
Parents or other specified adults will be required to pick up all medications that must go home.