Looking at unstable weather patterns (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Rich Barczewski is a professor at Delaware State University.)
I do not know how you feel about it but I for one am getting a little overwhelmed by the amount of rain that we have had to endure over the past year.
I have heard from a couple of folks who do a good job tracking the rainfall that we have received in excess of 70 inches of rain this year compared to a normal rainfall of about 45-47 inches per year.
For all the naysayers out there, part of the global warming models indicate more unstable weather patterns and a greater number of severe weather events coupled with the changes in climate.
If this pattern will continue or not, only time will tell but I for one hope it does not.
My wishes are not only for myself (I am not a big fan of mudholes) but also for our livestock.
Have you ever thought about your animals and how these weather patterns have been impacting them this year?
I thought it might be a good idea to share with you some of the things that I’ve observed with livestock over the past year that are related to the abundance of rainfall.
First and foremost, if you are one of the lucky people out there that has a lot of high ground, you might not have noticed much of a difference in your animals/pastures and facilities.
Unfortunately, most pastures are located on ground that is less than ideal for cropping and in most cases, that means prone to flooding.
If your pastures are located on more marginal ground, you have probably noticed that the excessive rainfall has saturated the soils and in some cases, resulted in ponding which in turn has resulted in mud holes in your pastures.
Since very few grasses can survive if flooded out for an extended period, many pasture owners are going to be in a position of reseeding when things dry out enough to allow for such activities.
Another concern with mud is that it has a tendency to cake onto our livestock.
I have seen cows, horses, goats and even a sheep or two that have been coated with mud and that in turn increases the weight that they have to carry around and can negatively impact their feed efficiency and growth rate.
Wool has the ability to hold about three pounds of water for every pound of fleece on a sheep so in some cases, the increased weight can be quite extreme, especially considering that the average sheep produces six or seven pounds of fleece per year and some breed produce substantially more than that!
Another problem with excessively wet conditions is stagnant water.
We would all like to think that our livestock will not drink dirty water but the presence of this water in the pastures can create a situation where the drinking of that water is possible and probable.
Dirty water can potentially harbor disease organisms and parasites.
In addition, standing water can also harbor mosquito larvae some of whom may serve as vectors for certain diseases such as West-Nile virus and Equine Encephalitis to name just two.
One additional thing that I have noticed is that in muddy ground, the incidence of foot problems tend to increase.
This can impact almost all livestock.
If you have sheep, goats or cattle, be sure to watch for signs of foot rot or foot scald. If you have horses, look for thrush and in some cases, abscesses in the hoof.
Organisms that cause these conditions are often anaerobic which means they grow without the presence of oxygen.
Wet muddy conditions can result in the mud being packed into the feet creating a great environment for these organisms to thrive and cause problems.
It is unfortunate that we always have to be on the lookout for potential problems whenever we experience variations in our weather, be it temperatures, moisture or even lack of moisture.
The key is to be wary of the environmental conditions.
When you can take steps to protect livestock via vaccinations, shelters, provision of clean fresh drinking water and the like, do so. Finally, remember that the key to
success in any livestock operation is to be pro-active and ready should problems arise due to existing environmental conditions.
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