Ni­trate poi­son­ing killing cows

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - GER­ARD HUTCHING

Waikato sharemilk­ers Cam and Tessa Hodg­son have lost 49 cows to ni­trate poi­son­ing, which could cost them up to $73,000.

Ni­trate poi­son­ing hap­pens as an­i­mals graze, and of­ten oc­curs af­ter a drought when there are high lev­els of ni­tro­gen in the soil, and is ex­ac­er­bated by hu­mid, cloudy con­di­tions.

Cam’s brother Matthew Hodg­son has started a givealit­tle page for them, say­ing their pas­sion is farm­ing ‘‘and to see the cows die in front of them is heart­break­ing to them’’.

The page has so far has re­ceived $16,777 in do­na­tions. It is due to run un­til June 20.

He told Fair­fax Me­dia the farm was a ‘‘scene of dev­as­ta­tion’’ which he would never like to see again.

Signs of cat­tle be­ing af­fected are ab­dom­i­nal pain, mus­cle tremors, drool­ing of saliva, blue dis­coloura­tion of the mouth, and col­lapse be­fore the an­i­mals fall into a coma and die.

It can be treated with the med­i­ca­tion methy­lene blue, which is also an an­ti­dote to cyanide.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Waikato pro­vin­cial pres­i­dent Chris Lewis said ni­trate poi­son­ing was rel­a­tively com­mon. He him­self had lost 10 cows to it sev­eral years ago.

The book value of the cows was be­tween $1600-1800 each, but the mar­ket value was be­tween $1400-1500 each, he said.

He said he had spo­ken to Matthew be­cause the cou­ple were too up­set to talk to me­dia or him­self about the poi­son­ing.

The Hodg­sons were graz­ing brand new an­nu­als and the ni­trate lev­els were ‘‘rock­et­ing along’’ in the hu­mid con­di­tions.

Dairynz says on its web­site there is a high risk of ni­trate poi­son­ing in the au­tumn, es­pe­cially when graz­ing new grass and an­nu­als.

Cool, cloudy days and fast ro­ta­tions are con­di­tions that favour ni­trate poi­son­ing and of­ten oc­cur af­ter se­vere drought con­di­tions.

The risk of ni­trate poi­son­ing can be re­duced by:

Graz­ing pas­ture that is older than 21 days-long ro­ta­tion;

En­sur­ing that the cows are not

❚❚hun­gry when put onto high risk pas­tures;

Feed­ing for­age sup­ple­ment first and re­strict­ing the time on high risk pas­tures.

Stock also need to have ac­cess to fresh and clean wa­ter.

Ni­trate poi­son­ing is a haz­ard on cool cloudy days, es­pe­cially in au­tumn.

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