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Flooding Impacts Winter Grazing Systems

March 7, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about how flooding impacts winter grazing systems. Hello. I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Dr. Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension Forage Specialist. Rocky, extensive and excessive rain in Mississippi and other parts of the South can impact winter grazing. What winter grasses are more flood tolerant?

Rocky Lemus: Amy, some forage like annual rye grass seem to be more flood tolerant, but on the other hand small grains, especially wheat and oats, can be severely affected by flooding because they are not conditioned to those type of situations.

Amy Myers: How can water saturation and livestock impact grasses?

Rocky Lemus: Due to water saturation, soils are very soft, and hoof action can also damage the root system of your winter grazing system, but it can also impact some [inaudible 00:01:01] grasses that are dormant, and can cause a delay in their spring green-up.

Amy Myers: Now, tell me what type of grazing management may be implemented?

Rocky Lemus: In these type of extreme cases, it might be a good idea to implement a limited grazing management approach to provide plant recovery, livestock damage of plants by trampling with soil, and minimize soil compaction that can slow down plant recovery. Areas that are usually covered with water for a period of days should also be monitored for weeds in the spring, and make sure that a control program is in place. Hay should be rotated to high areas with good drainage, and reduce hay waste and trampling.

Amy Myers: How can flooding impact soil nutrients?

Rocky Lemus: Soil samples might be needed to be taken in flood areas, since some nutrients may have been leached, and fertility can be impacted. If you have pastures and hay losses, it is important to keep record of the number of bales and number of acres, and in case of the sat, declaration might recover your losses. By taking the soil samples, you might be able to effectively fertilize your pastures in the summer.

Amy Myers: So after flooding, what type of livestock safety precautions should we be taking into consideration?

Rocky Lemus: Usually major flood events will vary in the degree of impact on pastures, but before allowing livestock reentry to flooded areas, it is important to scour the pasture for debris that can harm the livestock. Fences and water on the ground can pose a hazard to livestock. If the livestock have been exposed to flooded areas, producers should also monitor the livestock for injuries and possible diseases.

Amy Myers: Now, what type of diseases can livestock be susceptible to?

Rocky Lemus: Some floodings-related diseases can included laminitis, fever and swelling. Some diseases can present in flood area for months after the flood, and can increase the risk of infectious diseases, such as black leg, pneumonia, and leptospirosis. Therefore, keep a close monitoring in livestock exposed to flooded areas. I would suggest to wait two to four weeks to allowing animals back onto flooded pastures.

Amy Myers: Rocky, tell me about hay storage areas, like where hay has been baled and also stored. What should we do if we find it flooded?

Rocky Lemus: In some cases like that, Amy, producers tend to store hay in their fields, and if the hay have been flooded, it's important that they monitor that hay for mold accumulation. Mold can cause respiratory diseases in some type of livestock, but also the quality of hay might decrease, which means that in the long term you might have to increase the amount of hay that you need to be able to feed the animal for the rest of the season.

Amy Myers: So if a pasture gets flooded, how long should we wait to apply any fertilizer?

Rocky Lemus: Amy, usually fertilizer application in flooded areas should be delayed at least three to four weeks to allow those plants to recover and be able to utilize that nitrate. Nitrate application following a flooded area might not have the benefit that waiting for that period of time.

Amy Myers: And maybe we should reiterate, don't feed moldy hay to your livestock, right?

Rocky Lemus: That's correct. You're going to see high refusal. I would suggest that the producer try to find hay that's suitable for their livestock and get it tested.

Amy Myers: So, to get hay tested, or for more information, where can we go?

Rocky Lemus: I would suggest you go to our Extension website. In the forage section you can find quite a bit of information related to hay testing, and also samples can be sent to the Mississippi State Chemical Lab for analysis.

Amy Myers: Okay, so that's, and then forages, right?

Rocky Lemus: That's correct.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Dr. Rocky Lemus, Extension Forage Specialist. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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