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Hurricane Harvey contaminate livestock water supplies - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Hurricane Harvey contaminate livestock water supplies

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas farmers and ranchers have lost more than 1 million cattle that were in the disaster area affected by Hurricane Harvey.  As the recovery efforts continue, livestock owners should be aware of salt poisoning and water salinity concerns.

 “After the storm we began testing water where we felt the water could have high   salinity. After we determined there could be problems associated with the water on ranches between Aransas Pass and Rockport after Harvey, we began calling cattle producers to give them some one-on-one consultations,” said San Patricio County  Agrilife Extension agent Bobby McCool.  

Livestock producers worked around the clock to move livestock from the storm's flood waters. At this time, the cattle have survived the storm and the flooding, but with salt water mixing with fresh flood water, the cattle are left with undrinkable brackish water. Livestock owners along the Texas coast should get a salinity test or a salinity meter to check for high levels of salinity.

“The amount of drinkable water should be limited to cattle that have been in flooded water for a long period of time. Typically, anything less than 7,000 parts per million (ppm), although it is not ideal, will be safe for livestock to drink. We prefer that to be less than 5,000 ppm,” said Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agent Joe Paschal.

Although cattle can survive for days without food, a supply of clean, fresh water is essential to keep animals alive following a disaster. Generally, cattle can survive for a few days without water since they store some.

Don’t be in a hurry to fill them up.  Don’t let them gorge on water. Give cattle maybe a gallon or two every hour or so and look for signs of salt toxicity, that will include incoordination, staggering or even laying down.

In very severe cases, they might even be walking around on their joints rather than on their feet. If the case is that severe, they will need veterinary attention.

“In less severe cases, cattle can be recovered with smaller amounts of water over a period of several hours,” said Paschal.

Calves are more susceptible to salt toxicity. Lactation, hot weather and exertion increase water intake and make adult animals more susceptible to salt toxicity. 

“Cattle that are really thirsty will gorge on water, and you’ll start to see these toxic effects of having too much water too quickly. The cattle will normally drink about a gallon of water per hundred pounds of body weight during the day,” said McCool.

Ranchers should also keep an eye on their livestock that have been in standing water for a long period of time, because their livestock can develop feet and leg problems.

 “Water is sort of corrosive on tissues. It affects circulation. It will affect the blood vessels in terms of vessel constriction if the water is particularly cold,” said Paschal.

During this time, ranchers are urged to be observant for any kind of feet and leg issues as livestock are moved back to their pastures.  

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