Nitrate Poisoning in Livestock


Nitrate toxicity is sometimes a lethal problem for livestock especially during the fall. The amount of nitrate accumulated within the plant depends on two factors: the rate of uptake by the plant from the soil, and the rate the plant reduces it. If uptake exceeds the rate of reduction, large amounts of nitrate can accumulate. If the rate of reduction equals the rate of uptake, there is no accumulation. 


Quick Facts

  • Death loss from nitrate is an occasional problem in cattle consuming certain annual forages, particularly sorghum hybrids
  • Cattle producers should be concerned if rations contain over 5,000 ppm nitrate on a dry matter basis
  • Avoid poisoning with good management practices
  • A qualitative check called the diphenylamine test can be used to screen forages for potential harm
  • High nitrate forages can be used if diluted with other feedstuffs and supplemented with energy