Rutgers Cooperative Extension message: Nitrates In Forage

GSSB member CB Katzenbach is sharing the following message from NJ extension agent Mike Westendorf regarding the current drought and the potential health problems for all ruminants that may be caused by increasing nitrogen levels in pastures & forage. It’s very timely as most of the area is in moderate to severe drought:

With a large portion of New Jersey receiving abnormally low rainfall during the 2022 growing season there is concern about excess nitrate accumulation in forages.  Excess nitrate in forages can result in sickness and death in cows, sheep, goats, and other ruminants consuming these feeds.

It might be helpful to understand the danger forages containing higher levels of nitrates pose to animal health.  Nitrate is a common form of nitrogen found in the soil, which is taken up by plants and converted to protein in the plant.  Under normal growing conditions, nitrates do not accumulate in the plant. However, when plants are stressed with dry growing conditions, photosynthetic and metabolic processes are inhibited and the potential for accumulation of nitrates increases.

Utilizing drought-affected crops for livestock feed is a common practice; however, producers must consider the potential risks of nitrate toxicity.   Harvesting forage crops that are more susceptible should be done so that the lower segments of the plant stalk, which has the highest chance of storing nitrates, are not harvested.

Ruminant animals can convert nitrate to nitrite and ammonia in the rumen and detoxify nitrate.  When the level of nitrate builds up in the rumen due to higher levels in the diet rumen microbes cannot convert all the nitrate present to ammonia because the conversion of nitrate to nitrite occurs more quickly than the conversion of nitrite to ammonia. If levels of nitrate are great enough, nitrite will accumulate in the rumen and be absorbed through the wall of the rumen into the blood supply.  Nitrite can combine with hemoglobin in the blood and convert it to methemoglobin, which will carry very little oxygen to the tissues.  The first sign of nitrate poisoning is often dead animals.  Other physical signs of nitrate poisoning include difficult breathing, muscle incoordination and staggering, diarrhea and frequent urination, heavy salivation, cyanosis, and collapse.  Sublethal poisoning may result in a loss of appetite, lowered milk production, slow growth, abortions, and poor fertility.

A couple precautions about feeding drought affected forages containing high levels of nitrates:

  1. Order of feeding priority: Silage > Hay > Grazing > Green chop. Ensiling will destroy 40-60% of nitrates. Therefore, silage crops will have the lowest levels of nitrates due to bacterial destruction. Producing forage for dry hay does not destroy nitrates. Green chop will be the riskiest to feed. If nitrate levels are high enough, ensiling may be the only way to salvage the forage.
  2. Never feed forage containing greater than 1.5% nitrate.  Ruminants, especially cows, can be fed forage containing <1.5% nitrate if slowly adapted and provided the forage is only a portion of the diet.
  3. If contamination is suspected or if animals are showing signs of toxicity, the best option is to call a veterinarian, they will be able to provide veterinary treatment.

The attached factsheet and the link to a Plant and Pest Advisory article will give you more information if you get questions.

Educational material will be provided, and meetings are planned to help with questions. The State Department of Agriculture is planning a testing program through their feed laboratory to assist producers in managing affected forages.

Contact Meredith Melendez, Agricultural Agent II and Associate Professor, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County, by calling 609-989-6830 for additional  information.

ASI Research Update Podcast: Antibiotic Use Regulations

This month’s American Sheep Industry Association Research Update Podcast takes a look at the use of antibiotics and upcoming changes to domestic regulations with veterinarian Rosie Busch from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration will implement a new guidance recommending that drug manufacturers label all antibiotics as prescription-only beginning in June of 2023.
“That means we won’t be able to see these medically important antibiotics over the counter at feed stores or even if we’re buying them online,” Busch said. “Things like Valley Vet and other online pharmacies, we’ll see them there, but they will require a prescription in order to be able to buy them.”
It’s also important to note that veterinarians can’t legally write a prescription for antibiotics unless they have a veterinarian-client patient relationship.
“There is a federal definition, and states can have their own definition, but it has to meet the federal requirements,” Busch said. “Some states decided to go above and beyond that. Basically, it means that the veterinarian is familiar with you and your operation and animals. Usually it requires a visit, and that’s where it can vary from state to state.”
In addition to listening to the podcast, look for more information on the upcoming changes in the September issue of ASI’s Sheep Industry News.

Idaho’s “Trailing of the Sheep Festival” to Spotlight Women in Ranching

This year’s Sheep Tales Gathering at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Idaho will present unique stories from three different ranches in the West.

Marcia Barinaga’s ranching story is steeped in her family’s Basque heritage, starting a ranch on her own in California. What began as a dairy farm has now transitioned into one that produces fiber. Alongside Marcia will be Julie Hansmire’s story of continuing the family ranch after losing her husband. Although a hard-working rancher by day (and often night), Julie tries to make time for a life outside of ranching in Colorado.

Also, not to be missed are the stories of the mother/daughter team of Andrée and Bianca Soares, who manage the family’s commercial sheep and goat business, sharing a commitment to both targeted grazing and protecting the land from the threat of wildfire. This conversation will be moderated by multi-generation Idaho rancher Mike Guerry.

Each fall, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival honors the 150+ year annual tradition of moving sheep (trailing) from high mountain summer pastures down through the valley to traditional winter grazing and lambing areas in the south. This annual migration is living history and the focus of a unique and authentic festival that celebrates the people, arts, cultures and traditions of Idaho’s sheep ranching families, while highlighting the principal contributors – the Basques, Scottish and Peruvians.

The five-day festival – Oct. 5-9 this year – includes non-stop activities in multiple venues focusing on history, folk arts, a sheep folklife fair, lamb culinary offerings, a wool festival with classes and workshops, music, dance, storytelling, and championship sheepdog trials. In addition, the always entertaining Big Sheep Parade with 1,500 sheep hoofing it down Main Street in Ketchum, Idaho, remains a highlight of the festivities.

Click Here for more information.

Source: Trailing of the Sheep

Free Fecal Egg Count Analysis from University of Rhode Island

Building on Success: Expanding Opportunities for Sustainable Management of Small Ruminant GI Parasites USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (LNE19-381) 

Small Ruminant Producers:

Do you want more parasite-resistant animals?

Summer 2022: Free Fecal Egg Count (FEC) analysis

to assist with selective breeding for resistance to gastrointestinal worms


New or current National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) members either in or marketing to the Northeast who want to generate Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) for parasite resistance.

Producers must be able to obtain and ship fecal samples once or twice (at least 4 weeks later) following NSIP recommendations.

Animals must NOT have been dewormed within 4 weeks of sampling.

Fecal egg counts can be conducted for all young stock whose data is being submitted to NSIP.

For more information on the benefits of membership in NSIP please visit or contact the NSIP Program Director, Rusty Burgett, (

– OR –

Non-NSIP members living in New England, NY, NJ, PA, WV, MD, DE

Have a history of problems with gastrointestinal nematode worms.

Are FAMACHA©certified (online training program is available).

Are willing to share FAMACHA©scores as well as general herd/flock information/history.

Have the ability to obtain and ship fecal samples once or twice (at least 4 wks later).

Animals must NOT have been dewormed within 4 weeks of sampling.

To allow us to provide this service to the maximum number of producers we are focusing the FEC testing on young replacement animals.

FAMACHA©scores can be used to indicate that worm season is active and will provide fecal egg counts high enough for meaningful analysis (minimum herd average >500 eggs/g). Scores of 3 or higher in 10% or more of your flock/herd or an overall upward trend in FAMACHA©scores away from normal 1’s and 2’s indicate increasing parasite loads. Peak parasite season occurs typically from mid-July through mid-September in most of the U.S. NSIP producers should plan on submitting a first set up samples in July to allow for the 30 to 45 days needed before sending the second set of samples.

We prefer that first samples are taken by Mid-August 2022 but samples will be accepted for analysis through September 30, 2022.

Please complete the Pre-Registration to receive further information.

Access the Pre-Registration by clicking here for the link.

Please contact Elizabeth Kass or Dr. Katherine Petersson, University of Rhode Island at with any questions.

For more information on small ruminant parasite control visit our website at

2017 Contest Results

Breed Display

Waiting for results to be reported, contact Shelly Nussbaum

Fleece Show

2017 Fleece Show Results

Sheep Shows

Babydoll Classic  (No show in 2017) Commercial Grade
 Hampshire Jacob Meat (Open)
 Romney, White Romney, Natural Colored Shetland
 Wool-Fine & Medium Wool-Long

Shepherd’s Lead

Waiting for results to be reported, contact Shelly Nussbaum

Skein Contest

Contact North Country Spinners.

Updated: 15-Sep-2017

Working Dog Liability Insurance Available (ASI)

Working Dog Liability Insurance is for livestock producers who use guardian dogs to protect their  livestock from predators or other risks and herding dogs to assist in the management of their flock.

Frequently, producers have no liability protection from incidents related to guardian and herding dogs as most farm and ranch insurance policies exclude working dogs or dogs that “may show aggressive tendencies.” Livestock producers can be at risk for liability claims, such as dog bites, property loss or damage caused by working dogs. Even if your dog does what it is trained and supposed to do, if a third party is harmed, the livestock or dog owner could be liable.

WDLI was created by and for the livestock industry to assist with these claims. It provides $50,000 of liability per incident and $100,000 annual aggregate.

The coverage is only available to members of a state sheep association (GSSB is an ASI State Sheep Assoc.)  and is sold by the agency and insurance company owned by the sheep industry – Food and Fiber Risk Mangers and Bear Lake Insurance Company.

Additional information is available at www.workingdogliabilityinsurance.comor by emailing Burdell Johnson at

About Us

The Garden State Sheep Breeders is a non-profit, educational organization promoting sheep and wool products in New Jersey. We regularly hold educational and business meetings, sponsor awards at events where sheep and wool products are featured, and host an annual sheep and fiber festival.


Most of our members have small flocks and are hobby farmers. Many sell breeding stock, wool products, and handmade craft items. Membership dues:

$5/year Assoc. Member (ages 10-18)
$15/year Single Member
$20/year Family Membership.
See the membership form for more information.


Our meetings feature speakers talking on a variety of sheep related subjects. Recent topics have been on lambing, pasture management, color sheep genetics and making cheese from sheep’s milk.

Meetings are open to the public. In 2016 they will be hosted by members. The dates and locations will be listed on our Yahoo and Facebook sites and on this site.

Board of Directors

President Eunice Bench (2015-2016)
Vice President Sue Posbergh (2015-2016)
Secretary Kevin Melvin (2015-2016)
Treasurer Reni Melvin (2015-2016)
Trustee Judi Lehrhaupt (2015-2017)
Trustee Andrea Holladay (2013-2015)
Trustee Shelley Nussbaum (2014-2015)
Trustee Jennifer Elgrim (2014-2016)
Trustee Royal Unziker (2014-2016)

Contact Information

Garden State Sheep Breeders
P.O. Box Flemington, NJ 08822-0914

Join our Yahoo group, OR catch up with us on Facebook to keep up to date on meetings, share and learn from others.