Story Keith Maxey
Colorado State University Extension

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October 1, 2013
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Extension Tips: Health concerns for livestock following flooding

Recovery from this month’s flood is well underway, sure to be a daunting task for those directly impacted by the raging waters.

Agricultural producers, whether large scale or small, will have special issues to contend with.

Among them are replacing or repairing their operation’s infrastructure, such as irrigation systems, barns, fences, and corrals; dealing with longer, more difficult transportation routes to deliver livestock or produce to market; and harvesting crops in fields littered with debris.

Horse and livestock owners will want to pay special attention to health issues for animals impacted by the flood.

As flood waters recede, many pastures will be left with debris, such as boards with nails or metal objects that may cause injury.

Cleanup of these items should be completed before returning livestock to the pasture.

Various contaminants were reportedly spilled into the river as a result of flood damage to their containment structures.

In most cases, the sheer volume of water will have diluted the contaminants to the point that they will not pose any serious issues.

Small amounts of oil can be degraded by bacteria in the soil or evaporated by sunlight.

Allowing pastures to dry and be exposed to sunlight will reduce the level of pathogens.

It is recommended that, if possible, producers wait at least 30 days before putting livestock back on pastures to allow nature to do its work in removing or reducing contaminant levels.

Flood-related livestock diseases are also a concern.

A publication by the University of Mississippi Extension encourages producers to watch for signs of Blackleg, Anthrax and other clostridial diseases.

It reports that Blackleg, caused by micro-organisms spread over fields by standing water, is of serious concern.

It usually affects cattle six to 24 months of age, but can also affect sheep, goats and swine. Symptoms include acute lameness, fever and swelling.

UM Extension recommends that “the best prevention against Blackleg is inoculation of all unvaccinated young calves before they are put out on pastures that have been flooded.”

Contact your veterinarian if you suspect any disease, especially if animals die suddenly after flooding.

Tetanus may be a problem due to puncture wounds. Animals can be vaccinated to help prevent lockjaw.

Livestock exposed to constant standing in mud and water has an increased risk for foot rot. Foot rot is a painful swelling of the hoof causing lameness in cattle, sheep and goats and is normally accompanied by the foul-smell of dead tissue in between the claws.

Walking animals through a copper-sulfate solution will help provide protection against foot rot.

Chickens and horses can be affected by botulism, which is caused by organisms found in spoiled food, stagnant water and decaying animal carcasses left after a flood. Chickens may need to be confined for a period of time to reduce their access to spoiled meat or decaying matter. Horses should always have access to fresh water and feed.

This represents only a few of the health issues livestock owners may face following a flood.

For more information on these or other diseases, contact your local extension office, or your local veterinarian.

Always contact your veterinarian should you suspect a health issue with your livestock. ❖


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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 03:03PM Published Oct 4, 2013 09:39AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.