Farmers burnt by bad canola hay feed

Cattle deaths spur warning on toxic canola hay


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A warning has been issued for farmers to be wary of potential toxic problems with canola hay that hasn't  been cured or may contain sharp stalks that can pierce animal guts. This is a generic shot of canola haymaking.

A warning has been issued for farmers to be wary of potential toxic problems with canola hay that hasn't been cured or may contain sharp stalks that can pierce animal guts. This is a generic shot of canola haymaking.

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A $70 test can save your livestock from fatal nitrates

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The deaths of 12 cattle on a property from eating canola hay that was toxic with nitrates is a timely reminder to producers to make sure they test stock feed.

Southern Tablelands Local Land Services District vet Fiona Kelk, based at Yass, said the deaths occurred in one herd on a South Coast property. She had heard of other recent nitrate poisonings.

“It’s like a sudden death event,” Ms Kelk said of the nitrate poisoning. The nitrate builds up ammonium in the blood, and the blood can no longer bind oxygen.

“But for $70 farmers can get their feed tested to make sure this doesn’t happen.”  The nitrates build up if the hay has not been cured for long enough or it was not silaged properly. Any new feed given to stock also has to be introduced slowly.

Farmers are also being told to be wary of canola hay that can cause hardware disease – that is sharp spikes in the hay that can cut the gut in a ruminant and cause septicemia.

NSW Drought Transport Subsidy Integrity Advisor Derek Schoen said he hadn’t received any reports of nitrate-infected hay but said stockfeed purchasers should also be aware of hardware disease from stiff stalks of canola.

“It’s possible that the sharpness of the stalks in canola can perforate the gut,” Mr Schoen said. “With the drought people are seeking more feed more quickly but they have to make sure it has been cured properly. Splinters off the slithers can cause septicemia if they perforate the gut.” He said there was no test for hardware issues in canola hay.

Related: Baling canola to save the day

Many failed canola crops have been turned into hay.

Ms Kelk said with recent rain it was timely landholders looked at drenching and vaccination for cattle. “It  is  timely to look at 7 in 1s or 5 in 1s (vaccinations),” she said. (A 7 in 1 vaccination immunises against pulpy kidney disease, tetanus, black disease, malignant oedema (blackleg-like disease), blackleg and leptospirosis).

Drenching would also help protect against parasites that may emerge on the back of the recent rain, she said.

Solid rain was recorded from the Sydney Basin right down the South Coast last week and also in the Central and Southern Tablelands. On the South Coast falls included Nowra 146mm, Moruya 50mm, Ulladulla 85mm and Bega 45mm.

In the Southern Tablelands Moss Vale had 90mm, Crookwell 42mm, Taralga 70mm, Braidwood 51mm and  Cooma 36mm.

In the Central-West, Manildra had an eye-popping 91mm, Wellington 38mm and Eugowra 41mm. Orange recorded 50mm. Further north, Quirindi recorded 31mm and Tamworth 24mm.

Despite the rain, stockfeeding will go on for some time in most areas.

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