The University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) performs forage nitrate/nitrite testing and accepts samples from veterinarians, extension agents, and producers. Nitrate accumulation in forages is a real concern this season due to current drought conditions.

A panel including both nitrate and nitrite analyses costs $15 per sample, and turnaround time is one to three business days.

Sample Collection Guidelines

Proper sample collection is crucial for correct interpretation of results. The sample should represent what animals will be eating, so collect the entire part of the plant that will be fed. Collect a number of smaller samples to form a large representative composite sample. If different regions of a field were treated differently, then submit separate composite samples for each different region. Sample different cuttings, batches, or fields separately, and submit them as separate samples.

Submit at least a pound of total composite sample. More sample is better than too little, so when in doubt collect more. Be sure to mark each bag legibly with forage/sample type and identification information.

Nitrate concentrations tend to be higher in the stalks and at the base of the plants than in the leaves. Grains, seeds, and leaves do not accumulate significant nitrate levels. Plants with high stem-to-leaf ratios are the most likely to cause nitrate intoxication.

Dry forage (hay or bedding)–Use a hay probe to take core samples. Randomly select 10 or more bales that are representative of a cutting/batch. Take one or more core samples per bale, and mix all the cores to make one la