Feeding forage crops in frosty weather as we are experiencing at the moment can make management quite tricky.

Frost causes higher nitrate levels in the leaves of the plant.

This can lead to poisoning of the animal if not managed correctly.

Symptoms of nitrate poisoning include rapid breathing, tremors and animals down.

In more severe cases, it can lead to sudden death and the first sign of a problem will be a dead animal.

Avoid issues

The best way to avoid any potential issues is to only move stock on to their daily allocation of the crop once the frost has lifted.

This is typically by mid-morning.

However, in some cases the frost has not lifted at all over the past few days and with the cold spell to continue right throughout this week and into the weekend, stock grazing these crops are at risk.

The best course of action here is to remove access to the forage crop completely or at least reduce the allocation significantly for the duration of the spell of weather.

Forage crops should never make up more than two-thirds of the animal's total diet, with the other third coming in the form of grass silage or straw.

Ideally, for the rest of the week, silage should be offered to animals to substitute the forage crop proportion of the diet.

While this may not be ideal as extra baled silage will be required, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Access to water

Also, make sure the stock have access to water during periods of low temperatures.

Water intake may be low when stock are on forage crops due to their low dry matter.

If you are now replacing this with dry silage, water intake will increase over the coming days.

Check water troughs twice daily and provide an alternative source of water where pipes are frozen.

Once the severe frost has passed, reintroduce stock to the forage crop gradually over a period of a few days to avoid any stomach upsets.