Melting snow is welcomed by cattle producers, but should raise caution signs for horse owners, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Parts of Arkansas saw record snowfall with the Feb. 9 storm system. Temperatures rose to near 70 just as few days later, quickly melting the snow, swelling streams and making muck.
"What is positive with the snow is it will help replenish soil moisture," said Tom Troxel, associate head of the Animal Science Department of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
"With 2010 being so dry, soil moisture was down to zero," Troxel said. "With the melting snow, most if not all of the snow will soak into the ground."
If nothing else, cattle producers could use a little more water.
"The melting of snow won't recharge ponds, streams and lakes," he said. "That will take a heavy rain or two."
However, horse owners need to keep a close eye on their charges' hooves if they are walking around in the mud.
"Most horses deal pretty well in the mud, but if they have shoes on, then there is a great chance the shoes will get sucked off," said Mark Russell, instructor-equine, for the U of A Division of Agriculture. "It's better if you can keep their feet bare if they will spend any long period of time in muddy conditions."
Russell said long-term exposure to soggy conditions can lead to cracking, chipping or splitting of the hoof. Even more dangerous is the development of what's known as white line disease, which can lead to the horny part of the hoof separating from the rest of the foot, leaving the foot vulnerable to infection.
Another issue is a condition called "scratches," a fungal infection sometimes complicated by secondary bacterial infection.
"It affects the lower limbs, causing swelling pain, weeping, crusting and hair loss," Russell said. "In severe cases, it can cause lameness."
Source: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture