Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's blue green water and it ain't the sea

It's no new info that we are in a serious drought and with the lack of rain and excessive heat, we are all facing a multitude of new challenges.  We all know it takes rain to grow crops, crops to feed cattle and cattle to feed the consumer. But the challenges our consumer doesn't think about is how hard no rain can be on the cattle from the get go.

The natural cycle for the 94% family owned and operated ranches is generally the same.  Cattle go out to pasture in the spring where they are fed by grass all summer long and then sold to the feedlot somewhere after labor day.  For our operation, we send both our beef cattle and our registered cattle out to the flint hills in the spring where they feed on the wonderful natural grasses and are watered by the natural springs and ponds that are in each pasture.  Problem is... you need rain to keep those ponds full and the springs running.

Without the rain to fill our ponds, the water level is low, warm and stagnant creating the perfect environment for Blue Green Algae.  This algae is the latest threat to the nations cattle herd and is prominent in the areas most affected by the drought.  

The blue green algae occurs naturally in most ponds but when the conditions are right, it can multiply and take over small bodies of water. The rain is what normally breaks up the scum and continues the natural cycle but without our rain, this algae is growing in abnormally high concentrations.   Not only does this kill the plants and organisms living in the water by sucking out all the oxygen but it also is highly toxic to all animals.  "Livestock affected with the nervous system toxins may
show signs including muscle tremors, decreased movement, and difficult breathing.  They will collapse and go into convulsions.  In the field, many cases show no signs except sudden collapse and death." according to South Dakota State University

So, as you can imagine, everyone is on high alert.  As if the lack of water and grass wasn't hard enough on us all, now we have to take special care to keep an eye on the water we do have.

Bottom line? Start doing the rain dances because our consumers may not think this affects them but it will take a toll on the supermarket prices!

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