Water Quality

Written by Dr. Angela Garavet, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Water is the most important nutrient we can give our cattle yet; it is often overlooked. Dairy cows drink on average 30-50 gallons of water a day and produce 1 pound of milk for every 4.5 pounds water consumed. Low quality water means less feed and water consumed. Cleaning and testing your water are essential.

Cleaning: Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can easily build up in waterers and release toxins that cattle can ingest. In order to keep this to a minimum, clean your waterers frequently.

  • Empty water from trough
  • Scrub with stiff bristled brush and detergent
  • Rinse with water
  • To prevent further growth, add diluted, unscented chlorine bleach or copper sulfate crystals

Disinfection Dilution Rates: Rates verify based on the product you use, consult with your veterinarian.

  • 2-3 ounces bleach per 150 gallons (conduct as often as every week)
  • 1.5 tsp into 4.5 oz. warm water first then added to 1,000 gallons water (or equivalent dose to 1ppm) every 4-5 weeks
  • Chlorine dioxide – follow label directions for dilution

Ideally, let the bleach or copper sit one hour before allowing livestock to drink. Adding bleach, copper sulfate, chlorine dioxide or other products to dirty waterers is very ineffective. You first need to clean away organic debris and any buildup of materials.

Testing: Now that you have made sure the way the water is getting to the animals is clean, ensure that the water itself is of high quality. Regular annual testing of your water is recommended.

Sampling: Use clean containers and collect 1-pint samples at random intervals. Pour all samples into a 1-gallon container and mix to take your final sample. Follow specific lab guidelines.

Water tests will show you your water level of:

  • pH
  • Total dissolved solids
  • Nitrates
  • Sulfates
  • Additional factors

Any of these factors can cause livestock health issues. In order to find a solution to your water problem, work with your veterinarian to come up with a solution. These solutions are never quick and easy fixes but are well worth the healthy and productive cattle you will get in return.

Do you have questions or comments about water quality and how it can affect your animals? Submit them here! We’d love to hear from you.

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