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Don’t Overlook the Importance of Quality Water for Livestock

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
November 15, 2017        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties



Don’t Overlook the Importance of Quality Water for Livestock
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (11/15/2017) — The earth is 75% covered in it.  Our bodies are made up of more than 60% of it.  We can only survive 4 days without it.  I’m talking of course about water.  It is considered one of our most important natural resources and is the most essential nutrient to our diets.  That’s not just for humans, though--it’s true for livestock, too!  Most livestock can survive for two months without food but cannot go more than a week without water.  Water is very important to all animals, as it is required for bodily functions like digestion and lactation.  It is also important that our livestock are getting high quality water. 

The most common factor making water unsatisfactory for livestock is high salinity.  High salinity is an excessive concentration of dissolved salts.  Other factors that can affect water quality are nitrates, sulfates, alkalinity, and toxic elements.  The best way to find out the quality of your water is to have it tested.  A quality analysis can test for total coliform bacteria, pH, total dissolved solids, salinity, hardness, nitrates, sulfates, and toxins.  Knowing what’s in your water is important because certain factors can affect livestock performance, cause health problems, and even lead to death.

Besides testing, there are a few ways you can make sure your animals have high quality water.  First, if your livestock gets water from tanks, clean those tanks regularly.  In the same vein, animals that have individual water buckets (such as calves in hutches) need to have their pails cleaned and disinfected regularly.  If your animals have access to ponds or streams, try to limit those access points in order to keep the water cleaner.  Keep in mind livestock should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. 

Water is an essential but often overlooked nutrient for all livestock.  Giving our animals plenty of fresh, high quality water will ensure peak health and optimum performance.  The best way to know what’s in your water is to have it regularly tested once a year.


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Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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