Blue-Green Algae Fatal to Livestock

by 5m Editor
4 July 2008, at 2:31pm

US - We all love the warmth that comes with summer. Well, so do blue-green algae which quickly spread in areas of stagnant water like stockponds and small natural water bodies.

And even though some people take blue-green algae as natural health products, this algae can be toxic to livestock, reports Farm&Ranch Guide.

“Algae blooms cause major disruptions not only because of their offensive odor and appearance; they can be potentially fatal to livestock,“ said Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension Service water quality associate. “Not all algae blooms are toxic, but without laboratory analysis, it is impossible to identify poisonous species.“

Therefore, she encourages producers to be on the lookout for green to blue-green scum or a gelatinous mass on the surface of their livestock's water supplies.
,br> This scum actually is not an algae, Johnson explained, but photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria that rely on sunlight for energy. As they store energy, they create a tiny cavity of air that allows them to move up and down in the water to areas with more nutrients.

Blue-green algae produce two toxins, each with different symptoms. Signs of neurotoxin poisoning usually appear within 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion, Johnson noted.

In animals, symptoms include weakness, staggering, difficulty in breathing, convulsions and ultimately death.

Prevention of the algae bloom is possible and this route is often easier than treating the problem once the algae establishes itself.

For those using stock ponds as a water source, Johnson recommends keeping the livestock out of the pond area by pumping the water to a tank or trough and fencing in the livestock away from the pond or dugout. Aeration devices can also be used to create movement in the water and vegetative buffer strips can also be established around the edges of the dugout to intercept nutrients before they reach the water.

There are also products available that can be applied to the water surface that will limit the amount of ultraviolet rays, which are needed for the algae to grow. These dyes, such as Aquashade, Blue Lagoon and Admiral, are most effective when used early in the season for water intended for livestock consumption. This type of treatment is not recommend for human drinking water.

Products containing copper sulfate will kill the algae for a period of several months, but these algaecides can also kill fish and damage the eco-system of inland waters, Johnson cautions.

View the Farm&Ranch Guide story by clicking here.

5m Editor