A few pounds of grain (2-5 lbs) in the ration will dilute the nitrate in the total ration and provide the carbohydrates for bacteria to quickly convert the nitrogen into ammonia. Mixing of the ration should be thorough enough so that one animal does not have the opportunity to over consume the high nitrate component. Reduce the amount of the high nitrate component in the mix and begin a process of working back up if winter storms alter feeding patterns.
Silage - Test silage for nitrates before feeding. Silage can still contain toxic levels if the initial level was very high. Nitrates are reduced during ensiling however the reduction can range from 20 to 80%. Forage that was dry going into the silage pile may only have a 20% reduction.
Green forages generally provide the needed Vitamin A for cattle diets, however animal stores can be depleted in two to six months. High nitrates in feedstuffs may increase the requirement for Vitamin A. Given these considerations, providing supplemental vitamin A makes good sense and is not expensive to do. See March 2007 Beef tips for more on Vitamin A deficiency.
Horses - Horses are not nearly as susceptible to nitrate toxicity as ruminants. Some conversion of nitrate to nitrite occurs in the cecum but at a much lower rate than in ruminants. Pregnant mares can tolerate much higher levels than cattle but there is no published data on actual levels that horses can tolerate. Nitrate poisoning that does occur in horses happens more often in association with accidental fertilizer spills or water contamination.
This year has been abundant in nitrate challenges for producers. Incorporating high nitrate feeds into cattle diets can be done but it will require good management and attention to details.
Source: Sandy Johnson, livestock specialist