2011 has seen a tremendous amount of flooding in the south, and areas along the Mississippi River are taking the brunt of it. In 2005, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina devastated the coastline and had a detrimental effect on agriculture and livestock. Since then, veterinarians, producers, Extension personnel and disaster experts have been developing emergency response plans to prevent and/or respond to damages caused by flooding, hurricanes and other disasters.
“Emergency preparedness and response is an ongoing process,” says American Association of Bovine Practitioners President Christine Navarre, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, Louisiana State University. “Cattlemen know how to heed evacuation orders. For this event, cattle had to be removed from levees and spillways. Cattlemen have become very proficient at organizing themselves and helping each other do what needs to be done.”
Because cattle have already been removed from flooded areas, health issues are at a minimum. With high cull cattle prices combined with a drought that has created a shortage of pasture and hay, Navarre says many cattlemen either sold out or significantly decreased their cattle numbers.
But it’s post-flooding issues and management practices that have the potential to create health problems for remaining, returning or even newly purchased cattle. “Evacuated cattle are being commingled in some cases, so we expect some respiratory disease, abortions and possibly the spread of trichomoniasis,” Navarre explains.
With nutrition in short supply, body condition scores may drop, leading to problems next year with poor calf crops and weak calves. “Anthrax and clostridial diseases may show up when cattle return to previously flooded areas,” Navarre adds. “Once flooded areas open back up to grazing and we get some rain, herd expansion could lead to the usual biosecurity risks from purchasing cattle such as BVDV, Johnes and trichomoniasis.”
Not only are livestock affected, but Navarre says wildlife is taking a hit from the floods. “The Morganza spillway is home to a growing population of Louisiana Black Bear, which are a threatened species,” she notes. “This will be a hit to them.” On the positive side, she adds, is that the floods may hamper the wild pig population in that area.
A free publication “Potential Livestock Disease Problems Following Disasters” is available for downloading from the Louisiana State University Ag Center.