Flood waters create special management issues for livestock producers

Texas A&M AgriLife provides tips on how to safeguard herds from aftereffects

Staff report
Protecting livestock is a must not only during a major flood, but also afterward, says Mark Arnold, Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent for agriculture in Ellis County.

Recent heavy rains have prompted state and local officials to declare states of disaster across a large number of Texas counties.

“Livestock producers and animal owners should recognize that whether they are in a disaster area or not, they have added management issues to deal with because of the saturated conditions,” says Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Mark Arnold, Agriculture.  “After the immediate threat associated with fast moving flood water, cattle, horses, and poultry all have special needs if they have been exposed to standing water. Producers should observe flood related diseases, illness from consuming spoiled feed and injury from debris left by flood waters.”

Cattle that have been stranded by floodwater and have been off their regular feeding schedules need extra care and observation. Make sure they have access to clean water, dry feed, and un-spoiled forage. Watch for signs of flood related diseases, such as lameness, fever, labored breathing, muscle contractions or abnormal swelling.

Cattle on wet ground are more likely to contract pneumonia, foot rot or leptospirosis. Subsequent flies and mosquito population explosions add to this threat. Make certain that vaccination programs are current since soil and waterborne diseases can be present in flooded areas for months after water subsides.

Hay bales that were in standing water can be hazardous and unsafe for animal consumption. Since wet hay will heat and mold, cattle should be moved away from those bales and the bales moved away from buildings in case of combustion.

Before returning livestock to land that has been flooded, check for debris like boards with nails, fence staples, barbed wire and siding that may have washed into pastures. Running a field magnet over the property and placing magnets in cattle can minimize the risk of hardware disease. Debris often collects along fence lines and in corners, so those areas of the field need special attention.

Keeping cattle away from wet areas until the ground is solid protects forage plants from damage and prevents weak and smaller animals from bogging down in the mud.

Rats and other rodents may move into buildings during a flood. Snakes often follow the rodents so when reentering a flooded building be wary of what may greet you when you open the door.

More information can be found on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network at: http://texashelp.tamu.edu/.

For further information, contact Mark Arnold, County Extension Agent-Agriculture/Natural Resources, 701 South I-35E Service Road, Suite 3, Waxahachie, or call 972-825-5175 or email: wmarnold@ag.tamu.edu .