GLOBAL - European farmers looking to return cattle to pasture after a torrid New Year of flooding could do a lot worse than follow the thirty day drying rule.
Colorado extension experts have prescribed the month long hiatus to allow sunlight to dry pasture and minimise the damage flooded grassland can do to cattle and vice versa.
This formed the basis of guidelines sent out to Colorado cattlemen following their late summer deluge last September.
Central and northern Colorado was worst affected with Boulder County receiving three inches of rain in three days.
Like their US counterparts, farmers across tracts of Western Europe, particularly in the UK, have been challenged by the worst floods in living memory and the wettest winter on record.
Colorado cattlemen were urged to be vigilant against a greater disease burden, particularly from Clostridium and spore-borne pathogens like anthrax and leptospirosis.
“The spore bacterium are pulled from the soil and spread out via the flood waters,” warned Michael Fisher, Pueblo County extension director. “As the water recedes, the spores settle on the land and forage.”
Settling on grass means pathogens can pass via ingestion, inhalation or via wounds, he added.
Summarising the 30 day rule, Mr Fisher said that waiting is worthwhile so prolonged days of sun can ‘cook’ pathogens on flood impacted land.
This will also reduce any temporary risk of foot rot and mastitis, he explained.
Wet soil softens hoof tissues and the greater potential for pathogens on land means lameness rates can lift after a wet spell.
Furthermore, mastitis inflammation can arise when udders contact pathogens in muddy grasses.
In terms of grass management decisions, rangeland specialist at Colorado State University, Dr Casey Matney has warned of poaching and (pugging) and the loss of air pores in the soil.
“These compacted soils have a reduced capacity for allowing water to infiltrate and less pore space means less ability to hold water for plants,” said Dr Matney.
Pore spaces allow water and air movement in the soil, he added, warning that compacted pasture restricts plant root penetration and growth.
In extreme cases aerating machinery could be helpful in helping pasture recovery and Dr Matney urged producers to seek help to tailor an appropriate strategy.
He also advised cattlemen with pasture near water courses to be aware of unwanted plants washed onto farmland.
If deep enough, deposited sediments can limit grass growth from below and provide a seed bed for weeds.
Dr Matney said: “These areas of deposition should be closely monitored for weeds during the growing season – taking management actions if undesirable plants begin to grow.”