Pay at­ten­tion to min­eral lev­els in dugouts

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Farm News - BY TRAVIS PEARDON, PAG— Live­stock and Feed Ex­ten­sion Spe­cial­ist, Out­look

A num­ber of fac­tors af­fect the qual­ity of sur­face wa­ter sources. Nu­tri­ent load­ing from spring or sum­mer run-off, lit­tle to no re-charge from a dry spring, an­i­mal im­pact from di­rect cat­tle wa­ter­ing, and sub-sur­face soil or wa­ter salin­ity are but a few of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Many dugouts lo­cated in saline ar­eas may be fed from the bot­tom with saline ground wa­ter. The wa­ter in th­ese dugouts has nat­u­rally high min­eral lev­els to start with and with­out fresh wa­ter recharge and min­eral con­cen­tra­tion due to evap­o­ra­tion pro­duc­ers may find that the min­eral con­tent is el­e­vated to lev­els that are not suit­able for use. The only way to know for sure about the min­eral con­tent of th­ese wa­ter sources is to have wa­ter test done by a lab.

High sul­phate and high sodium lev­els are the most com­mon prob­lems with live­stock wa­ter qual­ity. Ini­tial signs to watch for in cat­tle are re­fusal to drink and di­ar­rhea.

As well, cat­tle may de­velop a rough hair coat and lose con­di­tion. Most times, el­e­vated sul­phates go un­no­ticed un­til po­lio (blind­ness) oc­curs. One of the most com­mon is­sues of high sul­phate wa­ter is that cat­tle will de­velop se­condary mi­cro min­eral de­fi­cien­cies, the most notable be­ing a se­condary cop­per de­fi­ciency. Sul­phur bonds with cop­per, making it un­avail­able to the an­i­mal. Cop­per is a very im­por­tant trace min­eral that plays a large role in re­pro­duc­tion.

Re­search has found that sul­phates at lev­els of 1,500 ppm or more can re­duce year­ling gains by 0.25 lb. per an­i­mal per day.

In some cases this sce­nario can be fixed with a proper min­eral pro­gram. In cow/calf op­er­a­tions, ex­po­sure to el­e­vated sul­phates of­ten re­sults in re­duced wean­ing weights and in some cases con­cep­tion prob­lems.

A more se­ri­ous out­come of el­e­vated sul­fate ex­po­sure is thi­amine de­fi­ciency, which can lead to nu­tri­tional po­lio char­ac­ter­ized by blind­ness, stag­ger­ing and death.

High sodium in live­stock wa­ter may ini­tially cause wa­ter re­fusal due to the salty taste. At very high con­cen­tra­tions an­i­mals may refuse to drink for sev­eral days fol­lowed by a pe­riod where they drink a large amount at one time and sud­denly be­come sick or die.

Any fac­tor caus­ing an in­crease in wa­ter con­sump­tion such as lac­ta­tion, high air tem­per­a­tures or ex­er­tion in­creases the dan­ger of harm from high sodium wa­ter. An­i­mals have the abil­ity to adapt high sodium wa­ter over time but an abrupt change from low sodium to high sodium wa­ter should be avoided.

The first step in deal­ing with high min­eral wa­ter is test­ing the wa­ter source. Un­for­tu­nately, should a wa­ter source con­tain high lev­els of sodium or sul­fate, it is not cost ef­fec­tive to re­move the large amounts of min­eral from wa­ter in the quan­ti­ties nec­es­sary for live­stock pro­duc­tion. While in some cases a good min­eral pro­gram will off­set the neg­a­tive ef­fects of min­eral is­sues, in many cases a new source of wa­ter needs to be found

Mon­i­tor­ing live­stock and there wa­ter source on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is a nec­es­sary prac­tice. In hot weather a lac­tat­ing cow can re­quire in ex­cess of 65 litres of wa­ter per day.

Wa­ter is the sin­gle most im­por­tant nu­tri­ent re­quired by live­stock and the qual­ity can have a huge im­pact on the health of an­i­mals and also the fi­nan­cial suc­cess of any live­stock op­er­a­tion

For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact your: Live­stock and Feed Ex­ten­sion Spe­cial­ist or the Agri­cul­ture Knowl­edge Cen­tre at 1-866-457-2377.

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