Flooding: The long-term impacts on livestock health

September 7, 2022

Recent years have given us more than a few weather challenges; from the “beast from the East” to some of the driest summers in years. These extreme conditions keep us on our toes at Larkmead as we try to negotiate the blistering heat and arctic winds. These challenges, however, are trivial compared to the difficulties that farmers face to keep their businesses running.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, we are currently experiencing a deluge of rainfall and many of our surrounding fields are under water.

While this is proving more than a little challenging for the drilling and field poaching, there are also long term implications for the quality of soil and forage.

Feed Quality
Feed quality is typically affected in years of flooding. Mould growth on feed reduces the nutritional value and palatability of standing and stored feed. Mould can also contain toxins that can cause death and liver disease.

Flooding can wash water-soluble minerals out of soil. This can leave the mineral balance of your soil different to typical years. Mineral deficiencies are frequently diagnosed following years of flooding and drought. These include iodine, selenium and cobalt deficiencies. These can lead to ill-thrift and fertility problems.
Research has demonstrated that mineral licks are not a fail-safe way to supplement minerals in a diet. If a mineral deficiency is diagnosed, the best way to correct it is with a mineral bolus that slowly releases mineral throughout the season.

Foot Health
Poaching and standing in mud leads to increased rates of foot disease. We frequently see increased rates of foot rot and abscesses during wet times. These can be combatted by providing somewhere firm and dry for animals to feed and trying to place feed and water troughs in high parts of the field or on hard standing.

Standing water provides a good habitat for the snails that complete the lifecycle for Liver Fluke. A large population of these snails increases the infection pressure of Liver Fluke on the ground. Pastures may become infected that are normally clean and mildly affected pastures can see heavy fluke burdens develop. Liver Fluke can cause sudden death in sheep and cause chronic wasting in cattle.

If you have any questions about how you can protect your herd or flock in the face of flooding please get in touch with the practice on 01491 651479.

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