Sound Ag Advice

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can produce toxins that are harmful to livestock, wildlife and people. Although this is something we typically see in ponds in late July, hot weather has spurred the growth of algae blooms says Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. Meehan joins this week’s Sound Ag Advice to discuss how to prevent cyanobacteria poisoning.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist

Speaker 2: Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Miranda Meehan NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. Today we're going to be talking about cyanobacteria poisoning in livestock. So Miranda, can you tell us a little bit about what is cyanobacteria poisoning? And why should our state's livestock producers be concerned?

Miranda: Cyanobacteria is more commonly referred to as blue-green algae, and it's a bacteria that can produce toxins that are harmful to livestock, wildlife, and people.

Kelli: If one of our state's livestock producers suspect that they might have some ponds with cyanobacteria issues or algae blooms, what are some symptoms they should be looking for in their livestock.

Miranda: The first thing is just watching and monitoring your waters themselves. The algae will be typically green when they're alive, but they can also be red or yellow. And then when they die, they turn a blue almost a turquoise color and can look like pink globs floating on the surface of the water. After they've consumed the water, there's two different toxins neuro and liver toxins, which are very rapid acting, they can act within five minutes. Some of the signs that we see with neuro is weakness, staggering muscle tremors, and then ultimately death with the liver toxins. Livestock may have mental derangement, bloody diarrhea, and then also some pale colored mucous membranes, and then ultimately death. So, if you see other dead animals around your ponds, we recommend testing those waters.

Kelli: What are some things that producers can do to prevent cyanobacteria poisoning?

Miranda: If you have those dugouts and ponds that are stagnant or low in water this year, fencing them out excluding livestock, providing alternate water sources would be an immediate solution. Long term solutions can be installing perennial buffers and installing other water sources within your pastures. They can also use copper sulfate to treat the water too.

Kelli: If someone has experienced some loss due to cyanobacteria poisoning. Are they eligible for any compensation?

Miranda: Yes, the USDA Farm Service Agency does cover cyanobacteria losses through the Livestock Indemnity Program. There are a few requirements that after those losses occurred, the producer needs to take immediate actions to prevent further losses from that water source. And they must report the losses within 30 days to their local office.

Kelli: Where can our producers go if they want more information on cyanobacteria poisoning?

Miranda: We do have some publications, one specifically on cyanobacteria through NDSU Extension. Also, if you want your water tested, contact your local county agent and they can help you test your water and get it sent into a lab or your local watershed coordinator.

Kelli: Thank you for your time today. Miranda. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.