Ranchers Beware: Hay Can Be Toxic to Cattle

The exhausted supply of local hay may be a threat for some ranchers across Texas. Other ranchers are taking advantage and attempting to salvage value from a failed corn crop. Corn hay bales are now available for cattle producers.

The only problem is that hay can be extremely toxic and can kill a cow within  4 hours. The Clay County AgriLife Extension office tells Newschannel 6 that all dangers can be avoided with a simple test. Farmers need this hay because right now it is the only option for some cattle producers in the area.

Alternative feed sources are being sought out as ranchers  scramble to find a way to keep their cattle healthy. But with a scarce supply of hay because of the drought, and coastal hay prices going through the roof, ranchers are turning to corn and sorghum hay.

Although corn and sorghum hay provide nutrients for cattle they can also be deadly. Missy Hodgin, with the Clay County AgriLife Extension Office says, "Under dry conditions the nitrates can build up in the lower parts of the plants. When ranchers bale the corn hay the nitrate levels don't dissipate. They stay the same and they can be toxic to livestock."

So toxic in fact that Missy Hodgin says it can kill a full grown cow in a matter of hours. Hodgin also adds, "The big thing that producers need to watch out for is just to be aware that it could be toxic and to test it. Have the hay tested and the best way to test is to use a hay probe."

Hodgin suggests to get the composite sample by sticking the hay probe half way into  the side of the bale then send the sample. The hay sample needs to be sent with a filled out form, which can be found at your local AgriLife Extension Office. Then send it to a diagnostics lab.

Missy Hodgin comments, "It is also important to test your hay nutrient analysis so you're feeding the cattle what they need. It is important that you are not over feeding them or under feeding them. That will make your hay and money go further."

Clay County AgriLife tells Newschannel that there is a $10 fee for hay testing. And because the demand for hay is so high right now, testing lab's are trying their best to get over night results.

Newschannel 6 found out through Clay County AgriLife Extension Office that corn hay is going for $50 to $80 a bale. A much cheaper option then coastal hay which is currently being sold at $100 to $200 a bale.

Natalie Garcia,  Newschannel 6