Potential Drought Brings Water Quality and Parasite Concerns


Drought continues to be a concern for farm country. On the Drought Map in North Dakota, 80% of the state is in a severe drought, South Dakota roughly half of the state in a severe drought, Nebraska is mostly in a moderate drought with some Severe and Extreme drought areas on the south western side of the state, that is mostly the same for Kansas. If we look at Colorado, half of the state is in an extreme drought with exceptional drought areas.

This is going to bring obvious strain to crops as well as livestock. With an early heads up on what this growing and grazing season could bring, it has allowed time for producers to think about a plan of action to minimize financial hardships and accelerate vegetation and livestock recovery after a drought.

No doubt, a good drought management plan for livestock is essentially a good range management plan. Knowing your land and the type of resources will help you develop a system that works for your operation. This will also help determine if buying feed or renting more pasture land is necessary.

A main concern with drought is water quality and the availability of water resources. In Cattle, 10% loss of body water will result in the death of that animal. Planning for decreased water supply is essential to keeping livestock alive and healthy through a drought. A couple of ways to prepare may be having ways to haul water to the livestock, implanting temporary pipelines or tanks or moving livestock to land that have fresh water resources.

In hot weather, cattle are going to do whatever they can to cool off whether that be under shade or wading in water. In free standing water, this could be an issue as water contaminated by manure or urine can cause illness such as E. coli, salmonella, leptospirosis and create optimal breeding grounds for parasites.

Dr. Stokka, NDSU Extension Veterinarian, Livestock Stewardship Specialist, says drought “compounds so many things, I mean everything becomes a little worse.” In the webinar series “Preparing your ranch for drought” Stokka brought up a point that most in the Northern Plains have not had to think about during normal years of rainfall, which are internal parasites.

Along with the cultivation of parasites from free standing water and lower water tables, comes limited grazing. Cattle are eating closer to the root, which digs up some larvae cattle are not usually grazing on. Second cattle are grazing closer to the ground, therefor closer to fecal pats where larval density is at it’s highest. Both of these conditions increase worm masses.

According to Stokka, this is not the year to short your parasite cattle defense.