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Caution: Wheat hay to livestock

MANHATTAN, Kan. – With wheat fields struggling
amid drought conditions through parts of the High Plains, some producers may be
considering cutting and baling their crops for hay. If so, a Kansas State
University veterinarian says, “the sooner, the better.”

“The beards (awns) on bearded wheat can cause
oral problems in cattle if the heads are fully developed and mature,” said
Larry Hollis, veterinarian with K-State Research and Extension.


A lot will depend on how hungry the cattle are
when fed the hay, Hollis said. If other feed is available, they likely will
pick around the heads to avoid being injured inside the mouth by the beards.

“But, if wheat hay is the primary diet component,
producers will probably see some cows that don’t look full, because their
mouths have become too sore for them to continue eating readily, even though
adequate hay is available. It’s also possible cows will salivate or have
swollen tongues or faces,” he said.

If signs such as salivating are present, the
inside of the cow’s mouth should be checked for beards that may need to be
removed. A shot of long-acting antibiotic may also be indicated, to help
control secondary infection. 

One additional approach to help prevent
problems, he said, would be to grind the wheat hay in order to break up the
beards before feeding. 

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