Salvaging damaged crops for livestock feed


Source: VBP+

It makes sense to consider salvaging cereal crops normally intended for grain for livestock for feed when disaster strikes, but potential residue from chemical use should be a consideration.

Crops intended for grain, when faced with damage, can be re-directed for livestock feed. It is an efficient way to utilize resources. There are many scenarios where enough damage occurs for re-direction to happen, but drought, flooding and hail are the main drivers. In these scenarios, enough damage occurs to the plants to render harvest for grain untenable. Cattle have proven themselves a valuable resource in upcycling products not used for human consumption or not economically feasible to harvest, and re-directing prior to harvest offers value to both seller and buyer of crops.

When contemplating a change in direction for an intended crop, on-farm food safety should be an important consideration, especially in regards to chemical use. Decisions made in the early days of planting crops intended for grain, don’t generally take into account a sudden shift of direction to livestock feed. When these sudden shifts occur, it is time to look back and consider those initial decisions with a new lens, as livestock feed.

Cattle producers who have the opportunity to enter into an agreement with a producer who has a crop available should ask the producer who is selling some questions, prior to finalizing said agreement. Was this crop sprayed or was chemical applied? What chemical was applied? When was the chemical applied? Do you have the product label available? These are key questions which can help the cattle producer make wise choices to protect food safety.


There are many, many different products available for use on crops intended for grain, produced by many different companies. These companies, prior to bringing a product to market, do extensive research on effects of these chemicals on plants, and violative residue avoidance. Chemical product labels also include restrictions, warnings and guidance on usage of crop for livestock feed.

For the cattle producer, doing your research and reading product labels, completely, is important. There can be references or restrictions to the use of the commodity for livestock feed found throughout a product label, which can be many pages long.

Some references will include a witholding period prior to grazing or harvesting for feed. Some references will be included in restrictions and limitations and may say crops must not be used for livestock feed, period. There may also be different references for the use as livestock feed for different plant types and species. For example, small cereal grain crops sprayed with one product may be acceptable as livestock feed, while legumes may not.

Withdrawal period is another key piece of information contained on a product label. A product may specify the number of days before the crop can be grazed or harvested for livestock feed and it may also contain a withdrawal period for when cattle are moved off a pasture to hold prior to shipping.

Both pieces of information are important. If you are a VBP+ certified producer, having records in place to show this information is necessary. There is a sample template of a record of herbicide/pesticide use, as well as an example of how to fill it out in the Producer Resources section of our website.

Stress and damage can also affect how plants respond to chemical and has potential to impact these very important dates. If in doubt, contact the product representative in your area to inquire about updated information around use of crops sprayed with their product being used as livestock feed.


If cattle are inadvertently exposed to sprayed crops used for feed or grazing, it’s time to do a Toxin Exposure investigation. Your veterinarian will have access to the Canadian Global Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (CgFARAD) which is designed to provide veterinarians, and their clients (producers), with accurate withdrawal information on the disposition of drugs or chemicals in animals and their products. Contact your veterinarian, have the product and exposure dates available, and request withdrawal information.

If a Toxin Exposure investigation is warranted, VBP+ has a simple template available to help guide you and your veterinarian through the process, including an example of a completed template. You can find both on our website at www.verifiedbeef. ca > Sample Records and Templates.

It it important for both crop producers and cattle producers to work together to find efficient solutions to benefit both, in a way that does not jeopardize food safety for the consumer.

When selling or purchasing crop to be salvaged for livestock feed, there are three critical pieces of information needed.

If you are a buyer, ask when crops were sprayed. If you are a seller, have this information available.

Know what product(s) crop has been sprayed with and be familiar with product label.

Any stress, including drought, can affect how crops react to any chemical. If in doubt contact a product representative.



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