Nitrate poisoning warning for Hunter livestock producers

After significant rainfall across much of the Hunter and Manning Great Lakes, pasture recovery is posing some challenges for livestock owners.

There have been a number of confirmed cases of Nitrate Poisoning and kikuyu Poisoning in our region in recent days.

The wet and humid conditions have proved ideal for the common pasture weed Purslane, also known as Pigweed. This weed is known to contain nitrates and oxillates and although generally not considered highly toxic it can cause scouring or even death where stock consume a large amount.

There has been a proliferation of the weed in many paddocks, and this week it has led to nitrate poisoning in stock in the Lower Hunter, where Purslane was the dominant cover in the paddock.

District Vet Jim Kerr said producers need to watch their stock closely during this period, as pasture recovers.

“With such wonderful rainfall there can unfortunately be downsides for livestock owners, associated with the rapidly growing young pasture,” said Dr Kerr.

“We’re encouraging landholders where possible to maintain their feeding regimes, including introducing silage or roughage bales in Purslane or kikuyu dominant paddocks."

Kikuyu poisoning can unfortunately occur when kikuyu grows quickly after a prolonged dry spell. It has a high mortality rate. Producers can reduce the risk to stock by removing them from kikuyu dominant pastures or adding a bale of silage or roughage to the paddock as an alternate feed source. Generally the risk to livestock subsides after three-four weeks.

Dr Kerr is reminding producers Hunter Local Land Services is offering free feed testing for local producers.

“We did see numerous nitrate deaths from hay and silage during this drought from feed harvested under stress or purchased from outside sources without necessary testing,” said Dr Kerr.

“We continue to offer this service to ensure local producers have confidence in the feed their stock are accessing.

“If you have concerns about the feed or nutrition requirements of your stock, please contact Hunter Local Land Services on 1300 795 299, to speak to your local team.”

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