Texas Drought Causing Cattle Deaths... From too much Water?

July 16, 2011; 9:33 AM ET
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"They overdrink because they're thirsty."

It seems like everyone is feeling the heat this summer. Human, canine, feline, or even bovine, we're all at the mercy of high temperatures.

Unfortunately, AccuWeather.com meteorologists foresee no signs of relief from 100-degree heat and drought conditions in Texas and the southern Plains any time soon.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "It appears the high pressure system responsible for the long-lasting heat wave and drought will stay close to Texas through at least the end of July."

In Texas, cattle are dying due to the drought conditions. The hitch is, they're not dying of thirst. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Cattle are dying from too much water.

The drought conditions have caused cattle producers to move their herds from pastures where water tanks have dried to new pastures with healthier water supplies. The cattle then gorge themselves on too much water and die within minutes of water intoxication, according to The Associated Press (AP).

"They overdrink because they're thirsty," said Dr. Robert Sprowls of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Amarillo. "Once they fill up on water it happens pretty quickly."

While over-hydrating can be a problem for some cattle, many are also suffering from dehydration.

According to Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, "During hot weather, Cattle drink more water and eat less."

Typically, an average cow consumes as much as 8.4 gallons of water per day through grazing. However, this year, daily water consumption is down to about 0.6 gallons, according to the AP.

Add into that mix the fact that some water supplies are becoming dangerous for the cattle to drink, and you have a classic "danged if you do, danged if you don't" scenario.

Cattle can drink from tanks where water may contain high amounts of salt, nitrates, or other organic materials. At that point, the animals do not consume enough water, the AP reported.

And to make matters worse, the excessive heat and blazing sunshine can heat up stagnant water and produce potentially toxic algae blooms. According to the AP, if the cattle consume the hazardous algae, it can be fatal.

Ranchers are taking any means or methods necessary to combat these problems, but there is no clear-cut or simple solution. Some ranchers have even resorted to relocating their herds to other states. Other ranchers were sending their cattle to market early.

"There will be a few opportunities for spotty thunderstorm activity in the region over the next several weeks," Sosnowski said.

For drought-busting and/or heat busting, it's going to take a dramatic change in the weather pattern, or a major tropical system to come along.

"Right now there is nothing in the cards along those lines, but at least we still have the bulk of the tropical storm season ahead of us," Sosnowski added with a glimmer of hope.


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