By Katelyn Brockus, DEA
River Valley Extension District
It is that time of the year again. Cattle are turned out on grass, and they are pretty content with their lives. As a result, as cattlemen we can become pretty complacent when it comes to management. One problem that exist every year in the state of Kansas is confirmed cases of blue-green algae. This article will go over what blue-green algae has already been identified, how to recognize it, and how to treat it.
Two cases have already been confirmed in Kansas as having blue-green algae in their ponds along with one case that is currently being investigated. The confirmed cases have all involved the same symptoms which included muscle tremors and convulsions in cattle. A majority of the time, death on pasture occurs before any type of clinical sign is observed. This is normally a problem that occurs later in the summer. So, this could be an early sign this year that more problems might be occurring in the state.
Now that it is identified as a problem, what can producers look for as an identifier? Blue-green algae is a bacteria found in a lot of ponds across the state. One of the ways to identify this bacteria is looking for a concentrated area in a pond that resembles green paint on top of the water that has not been stirred. This concentrated area is called a bloom. The cause of a bloom can be one of 3 things: hot temperatures, run off, and also light breezes. The best way to identify if you have blue-green algae is by taking a water sample and sending it off for testing. A water sampling kit can be found at your local extension office. If you suspect that you might have blue-green algae, then a temporary fix is to put up panels so that they cattle have restricted access to the water that is clean.
There is currently no treatment available for cattle if they ingest a toxic dose of blue-green algae. Timing is of huge concern for this as you normally find the cattle after it is too late or they might not even show the clinical signs. If they consume a large amount of this bacteria, most cattle will result in death. If they consume a smaller amount, it can damage the liver. It also has the ability to damage the skin and will appear as though the cattle are sunburnt. The best treatment is to take the cattle out of the pasture and put them into a shaded area until they heal. This can take a week or two to recover.
After blue-green algae is identified, treatment options are available for the pond. The best treatment is copper sulfate using the correct application rates. It is important to know how large the pond is in order to apply the correct application rate. If too much cooper sulfate is applied, copper toxicity can occur. This is a less frequent problem in cattle, but sheep are extremely sensitive to copper. Applying copper sulfate would also kill any fish in the pond.
Blue-green algae not only affects cattle but can also affect dogs. If dogs jump into a bloom, this can be toxic to dogs and can also result in death. If a dog jumps in the pond with blue-green algae, it is important to bathe the dog immediately. So, if the pond could possibly have blue- green algae, it is smart to leave the dog at home until treatment is applied and the blue-green algae is gone.
There are many different resources available for cattle producers on blue-green algae. If blue-green algae is a problem in your pond, feel free to contact Katelyn Brockus at the Washington Extension office, 785-325-2121, for additional publications on this harmful bacteria.