Drought Causing Increase in Livestock Killing Bacteria

Six livestock deaths caused by the algae are reported in North Dakota so far this year

FARGO, ND — The drought conditions are escalating algae which can kill livestock in five minutes if ingested.

For rancher Roddy Grefsrud, it’s been a forgiving season in Hawley, Minnesota.

“We got an inch and a half of rain Wednesday night,” said Grefsrud “We hope the pasture will come back a little bit. But otherwise, it hasn’t been bad.”

But the same can’t be said for several ranchers on the North Dakota side.

Ag officials at NDSU told us more cyanobacteria than usual are getting into natural water sources for cattle in the state.

It’s commonly referred to as blue/green algae.

For livestock, drinking it can be fatal.

“With the excess heat, dry conditions, it’s the perfect conditions to facilitate the growth of cyanobacteria,” said Miranda Meehan, a livestock specialist at NDSU.

Miranda Meeham said the bacteria caused six livestock deaths in North Dakota this year.

Keep in mind; many of these deaths typically go unreported.

“Some of the signs we look for is weakness, tremors, staggering, mucus discharge, bloody diarrhea,” said Meehan.

When an animal drinks cyanobacteria, it can die within hours; in some cases, less than five minutes.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t any treatment for poisoning, so the best thing is to remove livestock from that area, have the water tested,” said Meehan.

The algae typically appears in ponds, lakes and standing water.

If it’s found, Meehan recommends keeping a cool sample for professional evaluation.

Ranchers with an animal killed by the bacteria can potentially get compensation through the USDA.

The drought conditions are creeping into western Minnesota.

But Roddy said he’s ready.

“We may have to start feeding hay if we don’t start getting a little rain pretty soon,” he said. “Usually don’t start until September.”

Roddy’s cattle drink mostly stock water, so he’s not worried about the bacteria.

But he and many others in the Ag industry continue to face challenges from the Valley’s dry summer.

Meehan said livestock deaths caused by the bacteria were reported in Benson and Walsh counties.

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