Cattle Troubles from Recent Record Rainfall

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Luis Ruperto
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The excessive recent rains has harmed more than just gardens and landscapes. Stockmen are facing problems with their cattle and are still waiting to see the long-term effect on the hay market.

One noticeable problem affecting cattle are the abundance of flies. Horn flies, according to local producers, made their appearance earlier than normal and are in larger numbers. Infested cattle react by licking their backs, twitching their flanks, switching their tails, and kicking at their bellies with their hind legs. Not only are the bites painful, but the lesions can lead to secondary infections.

In addition to horn flies, houseflies and barn flies have been making a larger showing. These two flies are also an irritant and their numbers have increased because of these heavy rains. This nearly continuous irritation can be detrimental to weight gain.

The seemingly never-ending rainfall has also hampered fly control efforts by cattlemen. Pour-on insecticides and fly repellant ear-tags have been much less effective this spring. As one could expect, heavy rains wash off the pour-on products. The plastic ear tags also are reduced in their effectiveness with the rainfall reducing much of their protection.

Use of a mineral that contains an insect growth regulator (IGR), is a strongly recommended means of reducing fly problems during periods of heavy rain.

Cattle raisers have seen an increase in foot rot. Foot rot is a bacterial infection that is common enough but is exacerbated during stressful periods. For the infectious agent to gain entry, a break in the skin or hoof must occur.

Once the infection is established, cattlemen will notice inflammation and necrosis of tissue that causes severe swelling and pain. The signs of foot rot in cattle include lameness, holding or raising of a foot, reluctance to move, impaired movement, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and even reduction of milk production. It is a very serious issue that in prolonged, untreated infections, can cause severe illness.

If you are seeing hoof rot, be sure to contact your veterinarian for advice and products to alleviate it.

Finally, much of the first cutting of hay has been lost. Visiting with producers in Cherokee County, some were able to take advantage of a small window of a few days without rain to get their first harvest cut, cured, and baled.

One hay producer near Huntington, shared that he had measurable rainfall for eighteen out of twenty consecutive days in May. Unless the rest of the hay harvest season is exceptionally agreeable, this hay harvest loss will affect supplies and, of course, the cost of hay for next winter.

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