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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

October 12, 2023 - 11:15am --

Greetings Wayne County!  My name is John Yost and I have joined your Ohio State University Extension office as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator.  I will be working alongside Frank Becker, specializing in Livestock and Forages.  Although I am new to Wayne County, I am not new to OSU Extension.  I served as the ANR Educator in Fayette County, Ohio from 2001 to 2011.  After 12 years at West Virginia University, I have had the opportunity to return to OSU and couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to work with Wayne County’s agriculture community.  I am joined by my wife Jessica and daughter Baylee.  Jessica and I have two older children, Tylor is majoring in animal science at WVU and Olivia is a business major at WVU Potomac State College.

As I look forward to delivering educational programming covering various livestock, forage, and farm business topics, my current expertise centers around: Livestock behavior, facility auditing as it relates to animal welfare and husbandry, and precision technology use in livestock production.  I am particularly interested in understanding feed and water efficiency in ruminant livestock, adoption of remote sensing technology for performance monitoring, and impacts of enrichment techniques to optimize livestock production.  I am also interested in commodity marketing, and Frank and I are in the process of planning an advanced grain and livestock marketing program for this winter.  So please keep an eye out for more information on this as we approach the new year.

Potentially toxic nitrate levels in hay

So enough about me.  There are producer reports out of east central, south eastern, Ohio that hay forage analysis is showing potentially toxic nitrate levels.  The reports indicate that nitrate levels in some stands, are approaching a range of 1700 ppm which is acutely toxic to ruminant livestock.  Remember that nitrate toxicity is different from Prussic Acid poisoning.  All forages will contain nitrates and forage species ready take up nitrates from the soil in the presence of adequate soil moisture, as we have now.  Cooler weather will slow the plants photosynthesis and metabolism resulting in a higher nitrate concentration in the plant.  The nitrates can accumulate in the lower portion of a standing forage and grazing livestock can be the most effected.  Unlike prussic acid, high nitrate concentrations can not be remedied by harvesting dry hay or ensiling.  The only solution is to flash graze pastures to keep the animals from grazing too close to the soil level and delaying harvest until weather conditions change and forage resume normal growth.

The published literature varies on recommendations for feeding high nitrate forages.  A report from the University of Nebraska recommends that forages with nitrate concentrations of 1000 ppm, or less, on a dry matter basis is considered safe to feed, and levels between 1000 and 2100 ppm should be safe for non-pregnant livestock.  Nitrate levels of 2100 to 3390 can be fed at a 50% inclusion rate and forage with levels over fed at a 25% inclusion rate, and levels over 3390 ppm should be limited to 25% of the ration on a dry matter basis.  In the last two cases, the high nitrate forage should be diluted with low nitrate forage and concentrate.

If you have questions about nitrate levels in your forages, or any other livestock, forage, or farm business question, please feel free to contact me at the OSU Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722, or email me at  Even better is to stop by our office for a chat.  I look forward to meeting everyone and I hope you have a safe harvest season.

John Yost is an Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator at OSU Extension Wayne County.
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.