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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Oat Hay and Nitrate poisoning


We planted an oat field this spring with the thought that we'd plow it under for next year in an attempt to make the soil richer.

I've just cut it and am about to bale it. I'd like to feed 1/2 oat hay and 1/2 alfalfa to my horses. My horses are broodmares, foals, and show mares.

I've heard about Nitrate levels and plan on getting my last cutting tested. What I don't know is what levels are considered too high? Is there a level that is ok to feed 100% of oat hay to horses?


Where are you from? Colorado

How did you locate this forum? searching

Re: Oat Hay and Nitrate poisoning

Hi Elizabeth,

Nitrates naturally exist in hay as a precursor to protein production. However, hay can have high levels of nitrates during prolonged cloudy weather and long periods without rain. And, of course, overuse of fertilizers can result in too much nitrates in the hay.

High nitrate levels in the blood can impair feed consumption. Pregnant mares may abort their fetuses or have very little milk production. The blood loses its ability to adequately transport oxygen and death can result.

Generally, feeding oat hay plus alfalfa is a good mixture as long as your horses are not overweight (where they may have hormonal imbalances making them react poorly to the extra starch content in oat hay), or are Pre-Cushings (an age and/or obesity-related disorder).

So, when you get your oat hay tested, horses can normally tolerate .5% or less of nitrate content of the total dry matter in the diet.

All the best,

Dr. Getty