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Maintaining Livestock Health after a Flood

Publication Number: IS1736
View as PDF: IS1736.pdf

Disease Control

After a flood, there may be danger of infectious diseases in livestock, but, unless serious outbreaks of infection have occurred recently, there is no need to be alarmed. Observe these precautions:

  • Where large numbers of animals assemble, watch for any sign of infectious diseases, such as pneumonia, foot rot, or leptospirosis.
    • These diseases are more likely to occur where cattle are crowded on wet ground and where there are lots of horn flies and house flies.
    • If possible, an experienced livestock owner under the supervision of a veterinarian should handle and feed the animals.
  • Promptly report any sign of disease to the nearest veterinarian or county Extension office.
  • Contact a veterinarian about vaccinating animals for immunity from flood-related diseases, such as anthrax, lepto, blackleg, and swine erysipelas.

Feed and Water

  • Provide clean, uncontaminated water.

  • Inspect feeds, such as corn, wheat, and hay.
    • Damaged grains and moldy hay may cause digestive disturbances.
    • Horses, sheep, poultry, swine, and cattle are affected most severely (in that order) by damaged feed.
    • Do not force livestock to eat silage that has been flooded, even though it may not look any different.
    • Do not use any feed or forage that may have been contaminated by chemicals or pesticides.


  • Standing water may have ruined some pastures.
    • Lack of adequate forage could force animals to eat poisonous plants that are abundant in some parts of the country.
    • Remove fallen wild cherry limbs from pastures to prevent livestock poisoning.
  • Before restocking flooded pastures, remove debris, especially along fence lines and in corners. Livestock could be injured from pieces of barbed wire, sharp metal, and trash.

Protect Dairy Cows

  • Try to milk at regular times. It is better to lose the milk from one milking than to stress high-producing cows.
  • If you must use a neighbor’s milking parlor, try to keep the two herds separate.
  • If feed supplies are limited, give the largest portion of available feed to the highest-producing cows and those recently fresh. This may be a good time to cull less productive animals from the herd.
  • Clean and sanitize the milking parlor and dairy barn, milking equipment, and feed-handling equipment before returning to normal use.
  • Watch for signs of mastitis, which is likely to flare up as cows are stressed because of changes in milking procedures, equipment, and/or milking schedules.


  • Clean out hog houses, barns, and chicken houses.
    • Spray buildings with a good disinfectant before animals occupy them again.
    • Air buildings thoroughly before they are dried out.
  • Remove debris from dairy barns.
  • Scrub and disinfect walls, ceilings, floors, stanchions, and other equipment.
  • Scrub the milk house and equipment with detergent and hot water.
  • Sanitize equipment, walls, ceilings, and floors with dairy sanitizing products.
  • Dispose of animal carcasses promptly. If there is no rendering company operating nearby, burn or bury carcasses deeply in a place approved by your local soil conservation office.


Mosquitoes and other pests may be abundant after a flood. They not only annoy animals, but some species carry disease. Spray animals with an insect repellent as recommended by your county Extension office.

Information Sheet 1736 (POD-06-17)

Distributed by Dr. Carla Huston, Extension Veterinarian and Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine.


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