The drought has made hay scarce in some areas. But before producers buy, they should remember drought can also make any warm-season sorghum forages toxic, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service forage expert.
"With the hot, dry conditions we are currently experiencing in most of Texas, producers should be aware that their warm-season annual grass hays could have nitrates accumulated in them to a toxic level," said Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist, College Station.
The warning applies to forages such as haygrazer, forage sorghums and sorghum-sudan hybrids. Though not of the genus Sorghum, warm-season annuals such as pearl millet, foxtail millet and German millet can also become toxic under drought conditions.
"People like them because they are pretty tolerant of hot, dry conditions," Redmon said. "But the forages also have the unique capability of accumulating nitrates in their tissues to toxic levels."
The nitrate levels do not diminish over time, he said.
"If the nitrate levels are high when the hay is baled up, they will be high enough when the hay is fed in the winter," Redmond said.
Redmon recommend that anyone producing or selling warm-season grass hay get a forage-nitrate analysis performed.
The forage-nitrate analysis is not included in a standard nutritive-value forage analysis. The cost is an extra $5 for the test, but well-worth the money, Redmon said.
Redmond said producers wishing more information on sampling, testing and management for nitrates in forages should either contact the AgriLife Extension office in their county or go to the Texas A&M University forage Web site.
More information on drought in Texas can be found at the Web site of the Drought Joint Information Center.