Extension and Ag Research News


Good-quality Drinking Water Essential for Livestock

Water quality is as important as quantity for livestock in drought conditions.

Water is the most important nutrient livestock require.

As sections of North Dakota struggle with lower than normal precipitation, producers should be aware of the quality of water they provide for their livestock.

“The issue of quality becomes as important as quantity when there has been a great decrease in surface water, as is the situation in North Dakota,” says Roxanne Johnson, water quality associate with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

Many areas in the state did not receive adequate snowfall or spring rains to replenish ponds and dugouts, so producers may find quality and quantity of water for livestock are critical issues this year. The lack of an adequate, good-quality water supply could result in a concentration of unsafe levels of salt and toxins, which can upset the animals’ water balance and even may cause death, Johnson says.

Excess nutrients in the water can be the result of agricultural application of nitrate and sulfate fertilizer; inadequate animal manure and human waste control systems; soil minerals; and salt leaching from the ground, oilfield drilling sites and saltwater disposal wells.

To determine the safety of water for livestock, testing is very important. Samples can be collected in any clean bottle and sent, as soon as possible after collection, to a lab to be analyzed. Tests should include conductivity, sulfates, total dissolved solids and nitrates. For a list of laboratories in North Dakota, go to http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/abeng/waterquality.htm.

Producers who need help in evaluating their test results should use the Water Quality Interpretation Tool at http://wsprod.colostate.edu/cwis435/index.cfm. Producers should enter their results and select “livestock water,” then click on “submit.” They’ll receive an explanation of their water test results.

As temperatures increase, producers also need to be aware of algae growth in ponds, Johnson says. While not all algae are toxic, keeping livestock away from this potentially toxic source always is wise. Also watch for small dead animals, such as mice and birds, along the shoreline. Dead animals are an indication the water is hazardous to livestock. For more information on cyanobacteria, or the green scum that builds up in ponds, go to NDSU publication V-1136 at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/animpest/v1136w.htm.

A reliable water source is essential for a healthy livestock herd. Financial assistance to help producers find new water sources is available through the North Dakota State Water Commission. The commission recently approved $1 million to reactivate the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program. It provides 50 percent cost-share assistance to livestock producers with livestock water supply shortages caused by drought. For more information, visit http://www.swc.state.nd.us/4dlink9/4dcgi/redirect/index.html.

For more information on water for livestock, contact Johnson at roxanne.m.johnson@ndsu.edu or (701) 231-8926.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Roxanne Johnson, (701) 231-8926, roxanne.m.johnson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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