WATCH: Beef farmer distraught after he wakes up to find 11 of his cattle dead

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

On a routine morning check this week, Kilkenny farmer Oliver Power walked onto his farm to find 11 of his 40 weanlings dead in a field.

“I went up to check the cattle in the morning like I normally do and all I could see was legs up in the air all around the field,” explained Oliver Power, who farms in Kilcraggan, Co. Kilkenny.

“I found 10 dead first thing in the morning, when I took the video, and another animal died shortly after. The cattle that were dead were bubbling at the nose, had bloated bellies and their dung had bits of blood in it.”

Oliver called his vet and they sent samples to the Kilkenny Regional Veterinary Laboratory. The results showed that nitrate poisoning was the cause of the sudden deaths.

Nitrate poisoning occurs when the nitrite level in the rumen exceeds the capacity of the microbes to convert it to ammonia. When this happens, nitrate and nitrite are absorbed through the rumen wall into the bloodstream. It is the nitrite that causes toxicity

The field the cattle had been grazing was reseeded on August 17, he said, and it was the first time it was being grazed by cattle.

Oliver said that he was strip grazing the paddock, moving the fence morning and evening, to give the animals more grass to eat each day.

When the vet came out to examine the cattle, he told Oliver that there was nothing more he could have done to prevent the incident.

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“The vet said he couldn’t make sense of it, there was nothing more I could have done. It was fresh looking grass, so I made sure to split it up.”

The field was being grazed by dairy cross calves Oliver had bought last spring and he had reseeded it at the end of August. It was disk harrowed twice, got two bags of 27-2.5-5 to the acre and then rolled.

“We left it alone after that as the grass growth was so slow. Even when they were grazing it there was barely any grass there,” he said.

The remaining cattle were moved to a different field and assessed by the vet, who told Oliver that if any of them have nitrate poisoning now, they’ll start staggering and just drop dead shortly after.

"There’s very little that can be done if they get it.”

He said there is another day of grass fit for grazing in the paddock, but that he's not going to risk putting cattle in the field to eat it.

“There’s another day left in that paddock but I’m not touching it until we have all the samples back from the lab.

“I’m testing all the grass and I’m also testing the soil of what they were grazing the night before, just to see if there is anything wrong with that particular piece of ground.”

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