Livestock producers are encouraged to closely monitor ponds for the presence of high amounts of blue-green algae. According to Scott Fritz, toxicology resident with the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, blue-green algae are present in all bodies of water and are an important part of the ecosystem, but can be deadly to cattle if left unattended. He said if water becomes stagnant, as it is prone to do in midsummer due to the lack of rain, the algae will rapidly bloom. When those algae blooms start to die, toxins are released.
“It is common when we look at case histories to see a sudden, overnight death associated with blue-green algae,” Fritz said.
He explained the first sign ranchers may see is something that looks like pond scum on the water’s surface. It can be blue, green or orange. If this occurs, the pond should be tested by collecting a sample of the water a few inches below the surface. Once sent to the lab, if blue-green algae are found, further testing is done to determine how much toxin is present.
Fritz said blooms are becoming more common and can occur multiple times in a summer on an individual pond, which is why monitoring is important. He also said cattle can be given access to the pond once it is determined through testing that it is safe. For more information on managing blue-green algae, click here.