The devastating May floods have not only taken their toll on humans, but on animals as well, posing significant safety and health problems to Tennessee’s large cattle population.

The University of Tennessee Extension is encouraging agricultural producers to take steps to minimize safety risks to cattle.

The first step is to make sure animals have plenty of clean, uncontaminated water and food. Producers should inspect feeds for mold, which could cause digestive disturbances. Do not force livestock to eat silage that has been flooded, and do not feed any feed or forage that may have been contaminated by chemicals or pesticides.

Check all fences and gates and make necessary repairs quickly. Fencing problems can lead to unwanted commingling of cattle, which can cause herd health and breeding issues. Downed fences can also allow cattle access to contaminated areas.

Remove debris from pastures, especially along fence lines. Livestock could be injured from pieces of barbed wire, sharp metal and trash.

Producers should observe livestock for signs of infectious disease such as pneumonia or foot rot. Cattle that have been standing in water for prolonged periods of time may have skin infections and may be susceptible to tetanus. Severely injured or sick animals may require veterinary treatment or euthanasia. Promptly report any sign of disease to the nearest veterinarian or UT Extension office. Dispose of any animal carcasses immediately.

Dairy producers should try to continue to milk at regular times. It is better to lose the milk from one milking than to stress high-producing cows. If feed supplies are limited, give the largest portion of available feed to the highest-producing cows. Producers should watch for signs of mastitis, which is likely to flare up as cows are stressed because of changes in milking procedures, equipment, and milking schedules.

All producers should clean and sanitize flooded barns, milking parlors and equipment before returning to normal use. It is also recommended that you spray your cattle with some type of insect repellant to protect them from mosquitoes that may carry disease.

University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University are members of the nationwide e-extension network that provides research-based information and news you can use. Find flood recovery information online at http://www.extension.org/disasters. Follow the link under resource areas for floods. Additional information is available from the Louisiana State University Ag Center: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/. Click on the "community" topics link for disaster and recovery assistance.