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Stay alert to blue-green algaeStay alert to blue-green algae

Hot weather brings deadly algae blooms and cyanobacteria to water sources.

Sarah McNaughton

June 14, 2023

1 Min Read
cows and calves standing by pond
WATCH THE WATER: Stagnant water sources such as large tanks and ponds could become home to bacteria that is deadly to livestock.Candice Estep/Getty Images

The North Dakota Grazing Land Coalition shares a summer advisory for livestock producers: Stay alert to blue-green algae in water sources. Extended days of hot weather increases the occurrence and growth of algae blooms, and consumption of this bacteria can be fatal to livestock.

Blue-green algae grows in water that is stagnant and has excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. A combination of the excess nutrients and hot weather can lead to harmful algae blooms. These blooms can contain harmful cyanotoxins.

When inspecting water sources for blue-green algae, look for water that has a blue, green or brown tinge. If animal death has been seen, sending a water test to your local Extension office can help determine if a bloom is present. A veterinarian should be consulted to rule out other causes of death.

The level of toxicity is dependent on the amount of water consumed, the species consuming the water, and the level of contamination. Just 1 quart of heavily contaminated water has been fatal for cattle. North Dakota State University Extension offers these tips to prevent and control populations:

  • Apply and manage fertilizer properly.

  • Incorporate a cover crop to minimize soil runoff.

  • Prevent livestock from loitering in standing water.

Find more information about blue-green algae blooms from NDSU Extension.

NDSU Extension and North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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