Landholders warned to lookout for nitrate poisoning following recent stock losses

Landholders in the Western region are being warned to be vigilant for nitrate poisoning following a case of sudden death in ewes, in which a landholder lost more than a quarter of the mob within one day of unloading onto green feed.

Following decent rainfall over summer and into the start of autumn in parts of the Western region, green feed has begun to emerge in a number of areas.

While the rain has been happily received by all landholders, it does present some unwelcome risks, such as consumption of toxic weeds, as stock favour the emergence of anything green.

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

Western Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Charlotte Cavanagh is urging caution from livestock owners, particularly if re-stocking. If possible, feed some hay to fill stock up before releasing onto the attractive green feed so they cannot gorge. Monitor stock closely and ensure to get any unknown plants identified.

“Livestock consuming nitrate containing plants such as Tribulus terrestris (caltrop/yellow vine/cathead) and Portulaca oleracea (pigweed) will show a variety of symptoms dependent on how much of the plant they consume and over what timeframe,” Dr Cavanagh said.

“In some cases, nitrates cause direct irritation to the lining of the gut causing diarrhoea, salivation and abdominal pain. 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 with questions relating to nitrate poisoning or another animal health matter should contact their nearest Western Local Land Services District Veterinarian:

  • Charlotte Cavanagh, Bourke, 0429 773 021 or email
  • Trent McCarthy, Buronga, 0437 822 012 or email
  • Jess van de Weyer, Broken Hill, 0417 556 184 or email

Contact your nearest Local Land Services office on 1300 795 299.

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

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