Surface water in New Mexico is rare. Ponds may show up for a few months and the cows will love their new source of water. However, cows are not the best at keeping their ponds clean. They will wade out into the water for a cool drink and never think about how their back end is making the water unsafe. Diseases such as coccidiosis, diarrhea, and other nasty things begin to hibernate in the water and just lay in wait for some innocent cow to drink it in. To protect you livestock, you must make them stop drinking the contaminated water.
New Mexico can have either no rain or it comes in buckets. Usually the parched soil will soak up any moisture and the grass will green up. The cows become fat and happy and life at the ranch continues as usual.
Occasionally, a large of amount of rain will fall. This is normally a good thing. Seeing the draws run with water and the cows sunbathing after a summer thunderstorm is truly a sight to behold. The draws have been running about once every three years and this happened to be one of those years.
For over a month, the cows stayed down at the Gravel Pit. It is one of our favorite places on the ranch, and I had to admit, with it full of water and the beautiful green grass for grazing, the cows did what cows did and hung around.
It was by chance I happen to be home when a calf walked by and I realized we had a major problem. His backside was covered in blood. I quickly locked him up in the corrals and watched for a little while. He had diarrhea and most of it was bright red blood. Because of the gravel pit, I knew it was coccidiosis which is caused by a parasite. If something wasn’t done soon, the entire herd could be infected.
My husband and I took an electric fence charger, nine posts and some wire to the pond. The cows watched us curiously as we pounded in the posts and strung up the wire. The cows had never seen an electric fence before and it did not take long for them to get the idea the pond was off limits.
They returned to their clean drinking troughs and the calf survived after being doctored with a sulpher based oral bolus. He was the only one that required medication as the others had only slight cases and their healthy state and clean water allowed them to overcome the parasites without any interference from me.
Thus, cows can be trained to stay away from a dangerous situation by using a temporary electric fence. The fence takes a short time to install and a single shock will have them moving on to better things. Be sure to leave the fence in place as long as any danger remains. Our electric fence will stay in place until the water in the gravel pit evaporates completely.
Merck Vet Manual: Coccidiosis of Cattle
Taking Care of Coccidiosis