Ranchers should prepare for flooding and the risks that come with it

With the region's snow quickly melting, overland flooding could occur.

Flooded field
Overland flooding could cause some potential risks for ranchers and farmers.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek file photo

Many wondered if the vicious winter was ever going to end. With its heavy snowfall throughout the cold months, many snow banks and feet of snow accumulated on both farms and ranches. Now, ranchers and farmers should prepare for flooding.

With the warmer temperatures finally making their way to the region, snow banks are beginning to melt. This can bring an array of unwanted health issues straight into any livestock herd.

“Anytime we expose that hoof to moisture, we're going to soften that hoof up. At that point, it's more susceptible to abrasions and cuts. Combine that with the pathogens that survive in our environment, it always gets into that animal's bloodstream,” Zac Carlson said.

Carlson is a beef cattle specialist with North Dakota State University Extension. He says the winter conditions added an extra layer of difficulty this calving season, a time of year that is already stressful for many producers.

“Cows calving in snow banks and causing issues with calves getting really cold quickly after birth. I think that was one of the issues we were hearing about in Extension,” he said.


Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension disaster education coordinator, has been hearing reports of flooding, especially in the eastern part of North Dakota.

“With the speed of the snowmelt, we've seen a lot of overland flooding,” Meehan said.

Meehan advises having feed, hay and other emergency supplies on higher ground in case of a flooding situation. It is important to keep the feed and forage dry, as moisture can create mold. If the herd is fed moldy forage or feed, it can be toxic and even cause abortions. Diseases, such as Anthrax, could be an increased risk due to flooding, because Anthrax is formed by spore-forming bacteria, which is more viable in flooded areas. Both Meehan and Carlson advise ranchers and farmers to get their feed and forage tested if they sense it could be unsafe for livestock consumption.

In addition, moving the herd to higher ground is ideal if it's possible. However, in a case of flooding, Meehan urges ranchers to take precautions and make sure they aren’t risking their own personal safety for their herds.

“Getting those livestock to an area where they have access to high ground in case of a flood or overland flooding, which is very unpredictable,” Meehan said. “If animals do get into those flood waters, make sure that you're not risking your life to get in there and get those animals, because those waters are moving really quickly and people and animals can be swept away quickly.”

Emily grew up on a corn, soybean and wheat farm in southern Ohio where her family also raises goats. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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