Blue-Green Algae Summer 2012

Warm weather and relatively low rainfall in 2012 have again created conditions that favor blue-green algae blooms in ponds, lakes, and even in slow-moving, drying streams and rivers.  Blue-green algae blooms can eventually cause fish kills as the algae die and use up oxygen in the water.  However, the major concern for agricultural producers is that many types of blue-green algae also produce either nerve or hepatotoxins, which can lead to animal illnesses or death when ingested.

image of blue-green algae
Blue-green blooms often appear as if paint has been spilled on the water and may have a foul, sulfur odor. (photo courtesy of

Not all algae blooms are blue-green blooms; many water bodies are experiencing less harmful algae blooms this year, as well.  In addition, not all blue-green blooms produce toxins and unfortunately, toxin production cannot be judged only by appearance.   Finally, monitoring for toxin production is costly and turnaround time for results is slow.

The best way to protect livestock and pets from blue-green toxicity is to eliminate access to water bodies with blue-green blooms and use another water source.  Toxicity can sometimes remain after the bloom appears to have dissipated and new blooms can rapidly reform and spread. 

Numerous resources are available to help cooperators and producers identify a blue-green bloom and protect their animals and themselves from it. These include: