Although the rains were welcome for most of South and Central Texas, the flood waters of the San Antonio, Guadalupe, Colorado and other rivers caused many head of livestock to be lost and perhaps drowned as rising water cut off access to pastures and ranges in river bottoms.
More than 30 inches of rain fell in parts of southcentral Texas the first week of July. As flood waters recede, the grim job of disposing of dead animals and rescuing stranded and lost animals is on the minds of many ranchers.
Livestock that survived the flood will need extra care if they are to survive the trauma, said Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas Cooperative Extension livestock specialist in Corpus Christi.
“Livestock will be weak from the stress of not eating and standing for days or having had to swim in rough water,” Paschal said. “As soon as they are rescued, cows and older calves, sheep and goats should be fed a good quality hay, which will warm them through the heat of digestion.”
They should also be given a probiotic treatment as soon as possible to help restore rumen function, he noted.
“Swine will need a good high energy, low fiber grain-based feed,” Paschal said. “Horses could use both a good quality feed and some hay. Ranchers should be careful to prevent overfeeding and prepared or grain-based feed to prevent bloat and or founder.”
Young animals, such as calves, lambs, pigs, and foals, surviving the flood will be most stressed and possibly least likely to survive. Paschal said young animals will be more susceptible to pneumonia from the chilling effect of the water, weather and the lack of feed and care.
“This will be even greater in those livestock that have ingested or inhaled significant amounts of water in their lungs,” he said.
Young nursing animals may have lost their dams or been separated from them for days and will require a higher level of nutrition, similar to that provided in their dam's milk if they are to survive, Paschal said.
Livestock needing veterinary treatment for injuries and wounds will require a tetanus antitoxin for immediate protection, said Dr. F. C. “Buddy” Faries, Extension veterinarian. This will provide protection from tetanus for two to six weeks.
Severely injured livestock should be humanely destroyed and disposed of, using sanitary methods such as burning or burying with at least six feet of dirt.
Young calves, lambs and kids may also be susceptible to coccidiosis a protozoal disease that can cause scouring, dehydration and death if not treated. Faries said ranchers should go ahead and treat their young livestock to prevent this condition.
Some animals, once rescued, may die from stress of the ordeal regardless of the good care and treatment provided. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs will all require similar treatment when rescued — good quality feed and veterinary care when needed.
Once the flood waters recede it will be critical to properly dispose of dead animals by burning or burying. Survivors will need to be returned to their proper owners. Surviving cattle should be isolated to monitor for disease or sickness until their owner can claim them, Faries said.
Animals such as cattle and horses that have brands or tags may be ownership- identified with records at the county courthouse in the county clerk's office. Members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser's Association in Fort Worth (817-332-7064) or the Independent Cattlemen's Association in Austin (512- 836-1321) will have records of brands in those offices as well.
Local livestock sale barns and county Extension agents may also be able to assist in determining ownership. Cows having brucellosis vaccination tags can be identified through records at the Texas Animal Health Commission in Austin (512-719-0700).
Internal Revenue Service code 451(e) may allow a rancher to postpone gains for one year on raised livestock if the sale is caused by a natural disaster, said Dr. Larry Falconer, Extension economist- management. Also a rancher may be able to postpone any gain on breeding livestock for up to two years if any of those of animals are sold due to the natural disaster and are to be replaced during that time.
Producers should consult with their tax preparers or tax advisors to confirm their eligibility for their particular tax treatments, Falconer said.
Ranchers should be aware that the risk of disease is minimal immediately from flooding. Future vaccinations for the cowherd this fall for cattle caught in the flood or mixed with survivors should include the blackleg (all seven-way plus redwater) and leptospirosis (five-way).
Also, crowded pasture conditions, pasture contamination and reduced immunity will increase the possibility of increased internal parasite infections.
For more information, contact Paschal at 361-265-9203.