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Animal Health

Below are some of the potential animal health issues from stock grazing brassicas. Good management will reduce the impact of these but if symptoms persist seek advice from a vet.

Nitrate poisoning

Nitrates can build up in any situation where environmental conditions promote plant growth and have limited photosynthetic activity.

The risk of Nitrate poisoning can be caused/increased by:

  • sudden temperature changes
  • frost
  • shading
  • overcast days
  • insect damage
  • some herbicides
  • excessive use of Nitrogen fertiliser
  • soils with deficiencies in Sulphur, Phosphorus and/or Molybdenum
  • high acidity levels

Photosensitisation (brassica scald)

Monitor for photosensitisation (brassica scald). Brassica scald is a condition seen in stock grazing immature or second growth (regrown) brassica’s. Affected animals can be seen with reddening and swelling of the skin (commonly in the ears and face and possibly udders of sheep and dairy cattle). Brassica scald can be minimised by delaying the first grazing until crops have ripened (e.g. if grazing forage rape, a purplish-blue tinge on the leaf will be viable at maturity), as seen in the following image.

Kale anaemia or red water

Most likely to occur when grazing brassicas that have bolted or are flowering in spring. If brassicas are flowering, bavoid grazing.

Other possible animal health problems

  • When grazing summer forage crops (incl brassicas, herbs, etc), it is important to be aware of animal health issues.
  • Introduce stock slowly to a crop to allow rumen microbes to adjust.
  • Do not introduce hungry animals to the crop (gorging may occasionally lead to bloat or Nitrate poisoning problems).
  • Always offer an alternative source of feed, pasture or hay.
  • Always have plenty of clean, fresh water available for stock.