Dealing with High Nitrates in Forage

With dry weather in western KY, be cautious of the potential for nitrate poisoning before grazing or harvesting drought stressed summer annual forages like sorghum-sudan, pearl millet or silage corn. Several management strategies are available to reduce the risk of nitrate poisoning.

  • The majority of cases in KY come from cattle eating fertilizer, so store properly and clean spills.
  • Avoid grazing warm season grasses fertilized with excess manure or high N rates when growth slows from drought, frost, hail, or herbicide exposure.
  • Corn silage should be properly ensiled at least 3 weeks and tested for nitrates before feeding.
  • Mix high nitrate forage with forage known to be low.
  • Feeding low nitrate forage or hay before turning cattle on to high nitrate forages.
  • Splitting grazing times will also allow nitrates to be utilized properly by the rumen microflora.
  • Cattle can increase their tolerance to nitrates in their diet with time. Provide time for adaptation.
  • To aid in increasing this tolerance, the diet should be sufficient in vitamin A and trace minerals.
  • Delay harvest of high nitrate forages until nitrate levels are safe or raise the cutter bar to 18 inches.
  • When in doubt, take the time to send samples for nitrate testing before introducing cattle to the pasture.
  • Consult your county Extension agent for information on sampling for nitrates, conducting a quick field test, and/or to send samples for testing.

For more information see UK publication “Nitrate Poisoning”.


New Crimson Clover Available: Kentucky Pride

Dr. Norm Taylor was the clover breeder at UK for over 50 years. One of his last variety releases was an annual crimson clover named Kentucky Pride. This variety provides many cover crop and forage options that were not available in previous varieties. Kentucky Pride is more winter hardy, later in maturity for more spring grazing, and has better tolerance to poorly drained soils than the long term standard crimson clover Dixie. The best time to plant Crimson clover is early to mid-September to allow establishment before winter, but the majority of production is late March, April and May. Like all annual clovers, it then dies after flowering, but in it’s short life it is very productive and excellent at fixing N. Farmers in KY can buy Kentucky Pride from:

  • The Cisco Companies (Indianapolis, IN; 800-888-2896)
  • Turner Seed, (Winchester, KY; 859-737-1234 or Antioch, TN; 615-641-7333)
  • Walnut Creek Seeds (Carroll, OH; 330-475-6352)


KY Grazing Conference: Turning Grass into Ca$h

Plan to attend one of the two locations for our annual KY Grazing Conference. It is being held Oct. 30 at the Christian County Extension Office, 2850 Pembroke Road Hopkinsville, KY (270) 886-6328 and Nov. 1 at the Clark Co Extension Office, 1400 Fortune Drive, Winchester, KY. (859) 744-4682 Topics include:

  • Measuring profitabilityPicture1
  • Considerations for making a profit with stockers
  • Grazing dairies: challenges and opportunities
  • Turning grass into CA$H with small ruminants
  • Forage Spokesperson Contest
  • Grass finished beef: Production and Marketing
  • Keys to optimizing profitability in cow-calf production
  • Managing risk in grazing operations

Registration will open September 4th here.

KFGC Field Day Draws 150 from Multiple States

Over 150 producers dodged the rain and lightning at Debby and Toby Dulworth’s Farm in Ballard County. This multi-generational farm has developed a natural grass-finished beef business using Hereford cattle selected for producing high quality meat. Producers learned about fencing and summer forage options from on-farm demonstrations of high tensile electric fence construction as well as numerous combinations of summer annuals. The field day was hosted by the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Upcoming Events

Sept. 6 – KFGC Field Day, Morehead, KY

Sept. 20 – Beef Bash, Princeton, KY

Sept. 25-26 – KY Grazing School, Versailles, KY

Oct. 30 – KY Grazing Conference West, Hopkinsville, KY

Nov. 1 – KY Grazing Conference East, Winchester, KY

Jan. 6-8 – AFGC Conference, St. Louis, MO

Jan. 22-23 – Heart of America Grazing Conf., IN

Feb. 21 – KY Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conf., Lexington, KY


Featured Publications: Submitting Plant Specimens for Disease Diagnosis (PPFS-GEN-09)

Diagnosis of plant diseases is one of the many ways that the University of Kentucky Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and UK Cooperative Extension serve the citizens of Kentucky. This publication is designed to help growers collect and submit the best plant samples for an accurate diagnosis. It is always best to submit samples through your local county agent so they can assist with diagnosis. Download the form here.