Landholders encouraged to be vigilant for grain and nitrate poisoning

Bumper crop yields across large areas of NSW have been a welcome sight and provided graziers with a valuable feed resource to utilise over summer. However, grazing crop stubble can come with risks, particularly during the introductory phase.

In the Western region, there have been reports of lactic acidosis (grain poisoning) in stock recently placed on harvested crop paddocks.

Western Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Trent McCarthy is calling for landholders to be cautious when introducing their stock to new feed.

“Lactic acidosis occurs when sheep or cattle are rapidly introduced to grain and the rumen (stomach) has not had enough time to adapt to the new feed,” Dr McCarthy said.

“Landholders should always introduce livestock to grain by gradually increasing the amount available, particularly for high starch grains like wheat or barley.

“The sudden change in diet may also predispose animals to other disease such as pulpy kidney — so ensure vaccinations of the stock are current.”

In addition to grain poisoning, landholders should also be vigilant for nitrate poisoning following decent rain and storms over the past month.  

“While the rain has been happily received, it does present some unwelcome risks such as consumption of toxic weeds as stock favour the emergence of anything green,” Dr McCarthy said.

“A common scenario is empty stock coming off trucks either into the paddock or into yards where weeds thrive due to update of nitrates from urine and faeces.

“Nitrate can also be converted to nitrite in the rumen, which then enters the bloodstream and decreases the animal’s ability to carry oxygen. The outcome is rapid breathing, staggers and in severe cases, death.”

Landholders wanting further information on either grain poisoning or nitrate poisoning can read Western Local Land Services’ January newsletter, or contact their local District Veterinarian.

  • Trent McCarthy (Buronga), 0437 822 012 or email
  • Charlotte Cavanagh (Bourke), 0429 773 021 or email

Media contact: Charlie Whiteley, Western Local Land Services, 0428 679 974.

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