MANHATTAN, Kan. – Dry farm fields and pastures are not the only challenges agricultural producers are facing so far this summer. Warmer-than-usual weather and a lack of precipitation are also contributing to disease threats to livestock, according to Kansas State University veterinarian Larry Hollis.
Hollis, who is a beef cattle specialist with K-State Research and Extension, outlined three threats to cattle stemming in part, from recent weather conditions, including blue-green algae in ponds, leptospirosis and anaplasmosis.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are present in many Kansas waters. Under certain conditions, harmful algal blooms (also called HABs) can produce toxins that pose a health risk to people and animals.
“It started early on this year,” Hollis said. We’ve already had cattle deaths attributed to it in Kansas this spring.”
Although it’s commonly known as blue-green algae, it’s really a bacteria, he said. It favors warm, stagnant water, especially if it’s nutrient-laden, so ponds that collect runoff from farm fields are at higher risk. Compounding the threat is the fact that many ponds started the spring with low water levels because of less than average winter and springtime precipitation, thus creating conditions that make the threat of blue-green algae higher than in years when water levels are higher and water temperatures cooler.
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported stock water supplies across the state at 11 percent very short, 26 percent short, and 63 percent adequate as of June 17. There were no reports of surplus supplies. More information is available at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Kansas/index.asp.
Hollis said blue-green algae looks like a pale greenish oil scum on the top of the water, except around the edges where it’s more a cobalt blue color. Because of the recent hot, dry conditions, he’s encouraging producers to check their ponds frequently to see if they see the scum developing. Algae blooms can happen within just a couple of days.
“I hate to see people get into a situation where their first clue is dead cattle,” he said. “Sometimes you might even find dead coyotes or other animal losses. If that occurs, check your pond water.”
Even if animals just come into contact with the water, but don’t drink it, it’s an irritant, he added.
Blue-green algae affects humans just like it does cattle, so there’s a human threat as well as a livestock and animal threat, and once the toxicity occurs, there’s no remedy. It’s something the animal or human must fight on their own, Hollis said.