Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory: Blue-green algae can threaten livestock

[USA] Cyanobacteria — blue-green algae — are microscopic organisms that can be found in all types of water including farm ponds. Being photosynthetic, they utilize sunlight to support life. For most of the year, the concentrations are low, and the organisms are more even distributed in the water. However, during hot, dry summertime conditions organisms can rapidly multiply resulting in high concentrations called blooms.

The blooms may range in color from blue to bright green, brown or red and may resemble paint floating on the water or pea soup. Blooms are more common in warm, slow moving, nutrient enriched water. Storm events followed by prolonged periods of hot temperatures can often trigger a bloom.

Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory

Some cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can be harmful to livestock affecting the nervous system and liver. Toxins affecting the nervous system can cause muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, convulsions and death, while toxins affecting the liver can cause weakness, pale mucous membranes, bloody diarrhea and death. The wind can actually blow the algae bloom to one side of the water source, thus concentrating it. Dead animals may be observed near these concentrated areas.

The Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory can help identify the algae by sending them a sample of the suspect water.

Prevention and monitoring are key to reduce livestock exposure to blue green algae. Consider the following helpful tips and suggestions:

  • Check livestock ponds for algae blooms in hot weather.
  • Fence off downwind drinking areas if blue green algae are present.
  • Pump water from deep within the pond to a nearby livestock tank.
  • Use other water sources, if available, when temperatures rise to high levels and algae blooms are observed.
  • Reduce nutrient inputs to ponds from runoff by applying fertilizer at least 100 feet away from the pond edge. Vegetative buffers on the upslope of ponds work well to trap sediment and nutrients.


View original article at: Blue-green algae can threaten livestock




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