One fifth of feed found to have unsafe toxin levels
WITH little rain on the horizon and a growing feed shortage, producers are scrambling to get whatever feed they can get their hands on.
But this could have deadly consequences.
After several cattle died near Stanthorpe due to prussic acid poisoning, cattle producers are being warned to exercise caution when sourcing feed.
The cattle died on a property near Eukey and the cause was found to have been bad-quality fodder.
With such tight supply of feed on the market, hay is increasingly being made from failed grain crops.
However in drought conditions, these crops can develop dangerous levels of prussic acid and nitrates, which can be deadly to cattle.
Feed provider Feed Central conducted tests and found about 20 per cent of hay and standing crops had unsafe levels of prussic acid and nitrates.
Managing director Tim Ford said the prolonged drought had led to the extremely high rates of unsafe feed.
"The tests are a lot higher than normal, usually it would be 1-2 per cent," Mr Ford said.
"This problem has been intense since December and our testing has been consistently around that number."
Mt Sylvia grazier Ian Lindenmayer said with the continued drought, producers were desperate to feed their cattle.
"Sometimes you've got to take what you can get," Mr Lindenmayer said.
"When you've got starving stock you try and give them something."
He said while some less experienced producers might not be aware of the dangers of bad hay, others simply took for granted they were buying quality hay.
With a dry winter likely, Mr Lindenmayer said conditions were only going to get worse.
"I know people who have lost cattle locally here already," he said.
Mr Ford said the best way to avoid poisoning was to test feed before giving it to animals.
Samples can be sent to laboratories or on-farm testing kits are available.
Mr Ford said poisoning could be treated effectively if treatment was administered as soon as symptoms occurred.
Symptoms include staggering, laboured breathing, spasms and foaming at the mouth.
Fodder leaves 14 dead
POOR quality fodder has been blamed for the death of cattle at a Eukey property last week.
There were initial concerns anthrax was to blame, but following further tests that has been dispelled by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
"Biosecurity Queensland is urging livestock owners to be cautious when sourcing fodder supplies after the deaths of 14 cattle on a property in the Stanthorpe district," a Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson said.
"As drought conditions persist in much of southern Queensland and large areas of New South Wales and Victoria, hay is increasingly being made from failed grain crops and drought affected forage crops.
"In hot, dry conditions, crops that would normally provide a valuable source of feed, can accumulate high levels of prussic acid and nitrates.
"Even after being cut and made into hay, the levels of these two naturally occurring chemicals can still be high and toxic to stock, as was the case in this recent Stanthorpe incident.
"Always ask your vendor if they have tested hay, and always use a commodity vendor declaration," the spokesperson said.