Wildfires can be dangerous for livestock

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

Livestock caught in the path of the recent wind-swept fires across the state of Texas could suffer death, severe damage from burns and smoke inhalation.

Smoke from fires can cause breathing problems for cattle, even if they are not actually caught in the fire. Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel advise cattle owners to have their animals checked out by a veterinarian.  The Texas Forest Service has responded to fires that have burned more than 60,000 acres in our area.

While many structures have been protected and some lost, the untold number is the number of livestock injured and dead in the wake of the fire. Locate them, provide adequate nutrition and then consult your veterinarian, according to Extension Specialist.

If they can be moved to unburned ground, it is best. Get them to fresh water and then rotate their feeding area to prevent the build-up of pathogens.”

Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel advise cattle owners that it is important to get cattle that have been stressed by wildfires to fresh feed and water and to have them checked out by a veterinarian.

The most important thing is to provide livestock with high-quality forage that includes a protein and mineral supplement and good water, Sprowls said. If the livestock don’t get adequate nutrition and water immediately, their health can deteriorate rapidly.

The fires came at a very inopportune time for ranchers who are in their calving season. Not only will there be damage to the animals, but the dry soil profile doesn’t promise any recovery of those rangelands anytime soon, unless significant rain falls.

We probably had a lot of calves that were laying out susceptible to the fire, as fast as it was moving across there. They had no place to go. Also, there will be a lot of mothers with potentially scorched udders. The calves that survived won’t be able to suckle the mothers who have sore udders.

Analyzing injuries to cattle following a wildfire is important to minimize losses, according to AgriLife Extension veterinarian. It might look like they’ve made it and there was no visible physical damage. However, it’s important to have them looked at by a veterinarian as soon as possible because there could be secondary problems that lead to infections and further problems.

Health disorders, such as burned eyes, feet, udders, sheaths, and testicles, as well as smoke inhalation with lung inflammation and edema, are the most common problems.

“One of the problems we’ve run into in the past is with the feet,” said Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist in College Station. “It may take 10 days to two weeks for the damage to start showing. The cattle will start sloughing the hoof wall and become crippled.”

To assure the welfare of the affected animals, veterinarians need to be consulted. If, in the event the animal is not going to be able to be treated, decisions concerning sending them to market need to be made immediately, before secondary complications develop.

Damage can also be done by livestock inhaling smoke. Smoke can move for miles, and cattle that are not near the flames or heat could suffer some damage. Contact with burning grass, weeds and brush causes immediate burns, with severity determined by the degree of heat.

However, inhalation of smoke causes immediate irritation to the lining of the respiratory system, including nasal passages, trachea, and lungs. This can lead to inflammation, edema, and emphysema, with the severity determined by the duration of inhaled smoke.

The time it takes to cause damage might only have to be a few minutes with high quantities of smoke and may be hours in low quantities of smoke.

In addition, the lining of the eyelids and eyeballs can be irritated and lead to secondary infections which can be fatal.

Once the fire has passed, immediately consult a veterinarian for any animals with severe burns or direct smoke exposure. Other livestock should also be evaluated for possible health disorders and treatment or determining if the animal can be salvaged, or, for humane reasons, should be slaughter or euthanized.

The prognosis of mild cases may be good with treatment and will be cost-effective.

Monitoring should continue for weeks after the event. Secondary complications could be indicated by a cough or cloudy eyes in the animals.

For more information on care of animals and pastures after wildfires, AgriLife Extension has posted information on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network or EDEN at http://texashelp.tamu.edu/004-natural/fires.php

Tomatoes are king

Tomatoes are said to be the most popular plant grown in most home gardens. According to Dr. Joe Masabni, Extension Vegetable Specialist from Dallas, tomatoes come from South America, present-day Peru. The earliest mention of tomatoing European literature was found in Italy in 1544. Tomatoes were described as “Golden Apples” and were yellow varieties. Tomatoes became widely cultivated for several decades in Spain, Italy, and France where it was called pomme d’amour (Love Apple). It might have been used as an early aphrodisiac. German folklore named tomatoes “Wolf Peach.” The scientific name for tomato is Lycopersicon esculentum which means “edible wolf peach”. The first cookbook to mention tomatoes was in Naples Italy in 1692. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1893 ruled that tomatoes were considered the “fruit of the vine” and therefore a vegetable.

Tomato plants should be planted in an area that gets full sun or at least 8 hours direct sunlight. Tomatoes are self-pollinating. However, fruit set is affected by nighttime temperatures. If temperatures get below 50 degrees F, then blooming and pollination slows down. If nighttime temperatures get over 75 degrees F, then we can have flower drop and no new fruit are set (this usually occurs in July).

Tomatoes should be staked, trellised or caged once the plants grow and start setting fruit.

Everyone asks what the best tomato is to grow in our area.

The Celebrity tomato, long recognized as the variety by which all new tomatoes are measured, was named the latest Texas Superstar plant.

The Celebrity tomato was first hybridized and produced in the U.S. by Colen Wyatt. The seeds were commercially distributed in the late 1980s by Petoseed Co. and today by Seminis Vegetable Seeds.

In 1984, the plant was judged by various horticulture experts and recognized with an All-America Selections award due to its favorable characteristics compared to other tomato cultivars.

Celebrity’s root-knot nematode resistance sets it apart from most tomato varieties.

For gardeners who plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year, they have to have root-knot nematode resistance. That and its yield, fruit size and quality make Celebrity a must for gardeners.

Caring for Celebrity tomatoes

Celebrity tomatoes require full exposure to the sun for optimum production. They are also tolerant of a variety of soils if the location drains well.

Plants are perennial but grow as an annual in Texas due to the cold. They are determinant, or grow as a bush, but will easily reach 4-6 feet tall.

Celebrity tomatoes perform best as transplants in early spring, or they can be planted mid-summer for fall harvest, but whiteflies and viruses may hinder production. Plants also need staking or caging to produce fruit throughout the growing season.

Continue fertilizing after the first fruit set, and the plant will continue to grow and set more fruit.

You can apply fungicide and insecticide when fruit are about golf ball size, but that tomatoes may reach harvest before sprays are needed.

Along with root-knot nematodes, they are resistant to several diseases that plague tomatoes, including fusarium wilt types 1 and 2, verticillium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus, Stein said. Root-knot resistance is significant because very few tomatoes are tolerant to that pest.

Fruit is also resistant to cracking and splitting when there is excess water and sugar movement as the fruit develops.

High volume, high quality

Ripe Celebrity tomatoes are round and red, and vigorous plants typically produce 20 or more very plump, robust fruit, Stein said. Fruits typically weigh approximately 8 ounces and are 4 inches in diameter. Tomatoes continue to ripen after being picked and are typically harvested when they start to change color.

If you’re going to plant, you should have a few Celebrity plants in your garden and test the others.

Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System.