LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - "It's a very hard time for the farm," farmer Rick Clark said when asked how the drought is affecting his family's business.
With crops drying up and leaving farmers without food for livestock, many farmers are trying to salvage corn stalks destroyed by the drought to use as feed.
Veterinarian toxicologist Dr. Steve Hooser said the damaged corn could contain high levels of toxic nitrates that farmers need to be aware of.
"There is a big problem right now with corn stalks accumulating a lot of nitrates and that can be very poisonous to cattle," Dr. Hooser said.
Dr. Hooser said a high level of nitrates in corn can make cattle weak, harm their unborn fetus, and sometimes die. He also said another danger is that livestock are now starting to eat the only thing left in pastures, which is sometimes toxic weeds.
"So we've had already instances of livestock eating poisonous weeds because there's nothing else to eat out in the pastures so this drought has been bad," Hooser said.
Rick Clark relies on his family's cattle and farming and says he's taken extra precautions to test all the corn they salvaged for nitrate levels.
Clark said the levels were high, but is hoping that after fermentation in haylage bags, the silage will be safe to feed their livestock.
Clark says in the meantime they must rely on other methods of feeding so their cattle don't turn to the poisonous weeds.
"We started feeding hay June 12 which we've never done before in my time," Clark said.
Clark said a lot of their crops have been hit hard by the drought including the hay they are using now and will need silage to make it through the winter.
He also says many of his animal science courses he took at Purdue have helped him be better prepared for a situation like this.
He said you can't let the drought get the best of you.
"You have to have a positive attitude and you have to be able to think a little bit out of the box and prepare yourself for next year," Clark said.
Clark said he will continue to work closely with the agriculture department at Purdue who has helped him make sure his livestock are not being exposed to dangerous nitrates.
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