Freeze damaged wheat harvested or grazed for forage is potentially high in nitrates that can be toxic to livestock according to Ted Fry, agronomy specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

"Producers wanting to use their freeze damaged wheat for forage should be aware that the wheat plants might contain unsafe concentrations of nitrate."

Nitrate accumulates in plants when live roots continue to take up nitrogen, but plants are unable to use the nitrogen because of reduced growth.

Young plants in the vegetative stage generally contain more nitrate than more mature plants of the same species. This is especially true of young pasture plants that have been liberally manured or fertilized with nitrogen or poultry litter.

Concern arises with forages containing more nitrate than animals can effectively tolerate.

"Disruption of normal plant growth, like we experienced with the Easter freeze, increases the probability for nitrate accumulation in leaves, stems and stalks," said Fry.

Some vegetative re-growth has occurred and may still occur in fields not severely damaged. This would reduce the concentration of nitrate before haying or grazing.

"Hay with low levels of nitrate can be fed as a portion of a ration, however a laboratory test must be done in order to determine the concentration of nitrate in the forage," said Fry.

For more information contact the nearest University of Missouri Extension Center.


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