CANYON, TX (KFDA) - A constant change in weather can be stressful for pasture plants making them toxic to grazing livestock.
When in a stressful environment all plants can become toxic. This happens when plants pulls nitrate from the soil more than normal in an attempt to revive themselves.
"In drought or freezing conditions that plant is stressing and it can accumulate high levels of nitrate and become poisonous," said Dr. J.D. Ragland, AgriLife Randall County Extension Agent. "So, therefore it is a threat to our cattle when they consume it."
It is not uncommon for producers or farmers to abandon their crops when the plants are too severely damaged. The best alternative to avoid a complete financial loss is to allow cattle grazing but it must be done cautiously.
"Producers want to be able to utilize or get some good out of that particular field of crop and a lot of times they revert to grazing," said Dr. Ragland. "That is a good option as long as we know that it is a safe field for grazing."
If you notice grazing animals are foaming at the mouth or seem disoriented it is encouraged to pull the animals from the field and test the crops for nitrate. It is not uncommon for an animal to die within 24 hours after ingesting toxic plants.
The AgriLife Extension is advising producers to test their crops beforehand to avoid a great loss and the death of livestock.
"What we encourage producers to do, is basically have forage sample tests or analysis done on any given field that they are thinking about using as a grazing field," said Dr. Ragland.
To test crops, it is encouraged to grab at least four to five samples from random field areas. If a field tests too high in toxicity, the crops can still be used in other ways.
Dr. Ragland says it is safe for producers to make hay from the toxic fields as the drying process allows the toxicity levels to deplete.
Though stressed plants can retain large amounts of nitrate, it does not affect human consumers. Nitrate remains within the stem and leaves of plants and does not collect in the ear of corn or the heads of grains.
For more information about toxic plants or if you want to learn how to test your crops visit the AgriLife Extension website here.