Rough year for Kentucky cattle producers

High waters wiped out fences and left pasture areas covered in mud


Source: UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

via Morning AgClips - September 18, 2022


LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mother Nature dealt heavy blows to Kentucky cattle producers this year. Early summer drought caused hay shortages in the west and late July flooding turned Eastern Kentucky pastures into rivers. The high waters wiped out fences and left pasture areas covered in mud and silt that still pose risks to livestock.


“The first question livestock owners had to ask was, ‘What has washed into my pasture?’ They had to carefully walk the area in case they encountered debris, especially hazardous material such as lead batteries, chemicals stored in containers that were damaged, or other foreign objects that cattle may ingest,” said Jeff Lehmkuhler, beef specialist. “I’ve seen an ATV wedged up high in a tree, parts of destroyed homes in low areas leaving insulation in fields, and large propane tanks washed up into fields. Landowners need to take caution to protect themselves when cleaning up fields. Debris with nails or sharp, exposed edges can cause trauma, especially to livestock hooves.”


Floodwaters created washed-out areas in many tilled river bottoms. Other debris left behind included a lot of plastic, which poses a choking hazard to cattle. Many producers are still repairing miles of damaged or missing fence. Farmers who still need help with fencing supplies should contact their county extension agent for resources.


Beyond pasture woes, Eastern Kentucky producers need to make sure they have a clean water supply. Lehmkuhler warned that water could have anything in it, including harmful chemicals from pesticides, herbicides, fuel and oil from flooded stranded cars and other poisonous material.


“Big floods often break down catch basins for companies and industries and flow right into the creeks,” he said. “Floodwaters can break down and overwhelm wastewater plants leading to spills into the surface water. Testing the water is difficult because the water’s rapid movement and volume will dynamically change its composition. Be aware of what businesses and ag enterprises are located upstream.”


Another post-flooding concern is blackleg, a disease caused by bacteria that results in rapid death in unvaccinated cattle. UK ruminant veterinarian Michelle Arnold said producers should avoid feeding any feed left in fields, such as hay, due to the high risk of clostridiales from mud...