Submitted by Elin Kittelmann
Fallon/Carter County Extension Agent
Water is the most important nutrient for livestock. A quality and safe water supply is essential to the production of healthy livestock. If water is not suitable for consumption, it can adversely affect the growth, reproduction and productivity of livestock. Often it is excessive salinity – too high concentration of dissolved solids of various kinds that affect water quality in our area.
Salinity or total dissolved solids (TDS) is a good general indicator of water quality. Total dissolved solids are the sum of all minerals, metals, and salts dissolved in the water. In our area, high TDS are typically a result of high sulfate and sodium ions.
Guidelines for TDS in livestock water:
Less than 1,000 ppm – safe; 1,000-4,999 ppm – satisfactory, temporary and mild diarrhea in livestock not accustomed to them; 5,000-6,999 ppm – reasonably safe, it may be well to avoid the use of waters approaching the higher levels for pregnant or lactating animals; 7,000-10,000 ppm – should be avoided, although older animals may subsist on them for long periods of time under conditions of maintenance and low stress; 10,000 and greater – not recommended for use under any circumstances.
Fallon/Carter County Extension Office test seven livestock water sources twice a month throughout the grazing season. Our long term goals for testing water is to help get a better baseline for livestock water quality in our area and help livestock producers ensure the health and productivity of their cattle by monitoring water quality. Generally speaking, this year livestock water sources have been increasing in TDS as we moved through summer and into fall. This is typically what we see from year to year. However, reservoirs have dried up more this year than they did in 2014, as a result of a dry winter and below average precipitation this year. Hopefully we will get some late fall and winter moisture before next spring. If we don’t, livestock water quality may be a concern again next year. The quality of water in reservoirs appears to be heavily influenced by precipitation, temperature and soil quality.
Producers are encouraged to test their water if they are questioning its quality. Water quality has a major influence on productive and health of livestock. The Fallon-Carter County Extension Office has water testing meters and will test for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) free of charge. If you have questions or would like to get a water sample tested, please contact the Fallon – Carter Extension Office at 406-778-7110.