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For Immediate Release: August 20, 1999 Contact:

Hope Gruzlovic

New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Art Brown Jr. today urged livestock producers to call the department's tollfree hotline, 1-877-788-7785, to take advantage of the department's FREE field corn and grain testing program before feeding it to their animals.

"Drought-stressed corn can contain high nitrate concentrations that can be lethal to some farm animals," Brown cautioned.

He said many farmers are facing pastures which have dried up causing them to feed their winter hay supplies now. Making the situation even worse is that most hay crops were significantly damaged so that farms produced little hay for winter feeding while field corn crops, also used for animal feed, have been hard hit by the drought as well.

Some farmers hoped to salvage something from the devastated field corn crops by cutting the stalks to turn into silage as a feed supply for their animals.

"Under normal growing conditions, corn and grain plants convert the nitrates into proteins which are vital to the life of the plants and nutritionally valuable to livestock," Brown said. "But corn stalks that are stunted by the drought may have nitrates concentrated in the shorter stalks at levels deadly to livestock."

In addition to testing for nitrate concentrations, the department will arrange to test grain after harvest for the presence of mycotoxins such as aflatoxin, a fungus by-product that can also prove fatal if ingested.

Brown stressed that not all livestock react the same way to these toxins and in some cases mixing contaminated silage with other feed can eliminate the danger. But he added, "Farmers who have already lost this year's grain and forage crops to the weather can't afford to lose livestock or dairy cattle as well. That's why we're offering this testing program at no cost to farmers."

Many livestock growers are already dipping into winter feed supplies to feed their animals and may find it difficult to replenish supplies locally. In an effort to forestall this possibility, Brown has appealed to his counterparts in 47 states and the agriculture ministers in the four eastern Canadian provinces for hay and grain donations as well as donated transportation services.