As triple digit temperatures rage across much of the Southwest this month, animal health officials are warning against diseases and water toxins that can develop quickly in stock tanks and ponds roasting beneath the sizzling sun.

Dr. Ted McCollum III, Texas AgriLife Extension cattle specialist in Amarillo, says bacterial threats like leptospirosis and anaplasmosis and blue-green algae toxins can return to ponds and stock tanks quickly in dry, hot weather and offer serious risks to animal welfare, often resulting in death.

“It is a risk that returns with the summer each year. Some years are worse than others, but basically it’s a combination of no rain and extreme heat. It’s not anything new and most livestock producers are aware of the dangers. Last year we lost a number of cattle to disease and toxin. It is a good time to starting checking water sources.”

McCollum says just as important as safe drinking water, green forage is required to help keep cattle hydrated. While early spring rains helped forage crops, less rain and extreme heat in recent days is drying it out quickly.

“An average cow grazing green forage normally consumes about 30 to 70 pounds of water daily, or about 3.5 to 8.4 gallons, from the forage she grazes,” he said. “The lack of water from forage is more important than we credit.”

“How many people would think of going out to work for a few hours without a jug of water to drink from periodically? The water in the grazed forage is the cow’s ‘jug of water’ that rehydrates her while she is out on the range or pasture.”

McCollum says as green forage begins to dry under the summer sun, the importance of water tanks and ponds becomes more critical, but says heat stress can encourage bacterial and algae growth that threatens livestock. Risks include:

Leptospirosis

According to the Center for Disease Control, leptospirosisis a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all. Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death in both humans and animals.