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Nitrate poisoning

With the warm moist weather we have had over the eastern side there is always the possibility of Nitrate poisoning. Nitrate is present in low levels in most grasses, and is not a problem.

Sometimes with new grasses and crops such as sorghum esp regrowth, nitrate levels build up in the pasture when there is warm moist weather , with little sunshine. If cattle graze pasture or crops with high nitrate levels, they fail to convert the excess nitrate via nitrite to ammonia, resulting in the oxidation of haemoglobin to methaemoglobin, which is incapable of carrying oxygen.

Dead cows is the most common sign, but sub lethal/ chronic Nitrate poisoning can result in cows down / bloating and generally weak cows and sometimes abortion due to the low oxygen levels.

Treatment is via intravenous dosing of a solution of methylene blue, which restores the iron in the haemoglobin to its’ ferrous state allowing it to carry oxygen again.

The best treatment for Nitrate poisoning is prevention, so if you suspect the new pasture or crop you are about to graze may be high in nitrate, get it tested.

Dairy Cows - Nitrate Poisoning

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