April 17, 2024

Summer heat brings crop and livestock diseases

Crop and livestock diseases cost farmers and ranchers millions of dollars every year. Rates of these diseases tend to rise during the hottest weeks of summer.

Dr. Ryan Shuey, an associate veterinarian at Southern Hills Veterinary Services in Creston, said the viral diseases he sees in cattle are bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), while the most frequent bacterial infections are pasteurella and pink eye.

Shuey said they try to use vaccines as much as possible so they don’t use antibiotics.

“Antibiotics are an added expense to the producer. The other thing too is if we can do a preventative or a good vaccination program and never have to use them, that’s the most ideal situation. Antibiotics aren’t hurting the animal,” he said. “But resistance can become an issue so we try to avoid that at all costs.”

He said there is a “green tag program” to mark the ears of cattle so buyers and veterinarians know which animals have been properly treated and vaccinated.

Schuey said he works with cattle the most, as swine in the Creston area are typically seen by off-site veterinarians.

He said because most viral diseases in cattle are respiratory they only directly impact the lungs and pose no threat to meat quality, but only healthy cows get sent to the slaughterhouse anyway.

“Both the producer and the veterinarian are very much cognizant that we want our meat supply to be healthy,” he said.

He also said many companies that sell meat engage in misleading marketing practices.

“When companies advertise that stuff is hormone free or antibiotic free, it’s a load of crap,” he said. “We’ve got very strict standards that we have to follow in terms of antibiotic usage so it doesn’t enter the food supply.”

By using such labels as “antibiotic free” the companies are implying that other products without that label are filled with them. Shuey said when antibiotics are injected into an animal, the animal cannot be processed until tests show it only has, “trace amounts that are millions of times lower than any amount that would have any affect on the human body or natural flora. Our producers do an incredibly good job of producing meat safely but also humanely,” he said.

Tim Loudon raises cattle and sells seed in Creston. He said this is the worst time of year for livestock diseases and infections such as pink eye.

“I try to give the vaccine every year for prevention,” he said. “The preventative seems to help a lot. But if I do need to do it, then the treatment is Draxxin.”

He said the vaccine is significantly cheaper than the treatment , but sometimes outbreaks can still occur.

“When it’s hot and dry with flies. And there’s an irritant around the eye, it starts watering. Flies land on it and spreads from cow to cow. They huddle up this time of year to get flies off them,” he said. “A lot of times it will start with a whack of a tail to the eye.”

For crop diseases Loudon said fusarium root rot and gray leaf spot are some of the most commonly seen diseases in corn.

“Southern rust blows in once in a while,” he said.

He said brown stem rot, white mold and phytophthora root rot are the most commonly seen in soybeans. He said mitigating these diseases can be tough because while some level of trait selection is possible, there is no GMO yet for crop diseases.

Spraying fungicides helps with many of these diseases. He said airplanes are commonly used for spraying.

“We do have fungicides. They’re sprayed in the reproductive frames, early reproduction. Like pollination of flowering within corn and soybeans respectively, we can spray a fungicide. Some of them help prevent and some of them help cure the disease,” he said. “There are some studies being done with multiple applications. Right now it’s usually just a one-time application [annually].”

“There are some strains and some lines of products that have better natural resistance or natural immunity to those diseases,” he said. “We do try to add those into the breeding of the lines as much as possible.”

Yet, he said GMOs are effective in dealing with insects and have been tested thoroughly.

“It’s always cleared, it’s always researched to the end. Everything that we produce in the fields one way or another ends up in the food chain. So the last thing we want is to have a problem,” he said. “Our use of pesticides is reduced immensely by the GMOs, genetically modified corn and soybeans.”

He said the benefits of GMOs far outweigh the harmful effects of using pesticides, which were effective at eradicating rootworm in corn but purged everything that was sprayed too.

“When you spray pesticide in general it’s non-selective, we end up hurting and wiping out the beneficial insects as well as the harmful insects.”