More than 200 cows in Missouri have died due to nitrate poisoning in the past month


By Braden Berg, KSPR (MO) 

Mar 08, 2019


Experts say it is because of the unusual weather over the last year.


The University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab in Columbia says more than 200 cattle deaths were due to nitrate poisoning in the last 30 days.


Environment Plant Science professor Dr. Will McClain from Missouri State says that the drought last summer is part of the issue.


"Anything that slows down the biology of the plant, you can see nitrates accumulate,"' said McClain. "We were short on hay, and a lot of producers went and bought hay from other places."


McClain says farmers may not have thought to check that hay for nitrates.


"You should get your hay tested, period," said McClain. "Any hay test, they will automatically test for nitrates. That just tells you yes or no. But if it is yes, then you can send it to a lab and now you know the number and now you know what you can do with it."


Or some farmers may have added extra fertilizer to help the grass grow during the drought, but didn't let it grow long enough to convert the nitrate to ammonium.


Nitrate turns to nitrite in the cows digestive system and too much of it can kill the animal.


"Nitrate combines with hemoglobin, and it can't pick up oxygen, so you are suffocating at a cellular level," said McClain. "That is what is happening to the cattle, their blood is being starved for oxygen."


McClain says it's hard to tell if a cow is suffering from nitrate poisoning.


"Maybe when the other cattle that are running because they know they are about to be fed, watch that one that doesn't get up, or is slow coming in. Weakness is really the thing." McClain said...


more, including video report [2:03 min.]