If high temperatures and sustained drought severely damaged your cornfields this summer, tread carefully. There may be high nitrate levels in the forage, advises University of Illinois extension educator Robert Bellm.

“These levels will be highest in fields that received high nitrogen fertilizer or manure applications and in plants that are severely stunted and did not form an ear,” he says. Here are some precautions:

• Delay harvest of drought-damaged forage at least five days following a rain event.

• Harvest or graze only the upper two-thirds of the plant to reduce the potential for nitrate toxicity.

• Dilute forages containing high levels of nitrate with grain or other feedstuffs that are low in nitrate and introduce them slowly.

• Test drought-damaged corn that you plan to green-chop prior to harvest. Limit the amount fed and introduce it slowly.

• Test hay made from drought-damaged corn prior to feeding.

• Do not feed high-nitrate forages for at least three weeks after ensiling them and test them for nitrate levels prior to feeding.

For more information: Type “Feeding drought-damaged corn to livestock” into the “Search” box at dairyherd.com