According to Gadberry ( 2016 ),
cattle prefer water containing some salt . However , at TDS levels above 5,000 ppm , intake and average daily gain are reduced . Levels from 7,000 – 10,000 ppm are safe for dry cows under low levels of environmental stress , and TDS levels over 10,000 ppm should not be used . Diarrhea and weight loss are possible at extremely high TDS . Cattle can adapt to saline water over time , but a sudden change to high-saline water can be fatal .
pH and hardness
The acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution is represented by its pH . Solutions with a pH of less than 7 are acidic , while solutions with a pH over 7 are basic . The acceptable pH range for water consumed by beef cattle is 6 – 8.5 ( Herring , 2014 ). Alkalinity is caused by carbonates , bicarbonates and hydroxide ions , and it rarely harms cattle , unless extremely high .
Hardness is caused by the cations calcium , magnesium , ferrous iron and manganous ions . If the topsoil is thick or limestone is present , water is generally hard . If rock formations are absent and the topsoil is thin , water is soft . Hardness does not usually affect the palatability or safety of water but can cause an accumulation of scale on water delivery systems . Clogging can potentially reduce water availability and intake .
Sodium sulfate is a common sulfate salt found in water , along with calcium sulfate and magnesium sulfate , to a lesser extent . All these sulfates act as laxatives while also causing water to taste bitter . Sulfur can have a detrimental impact on cattle performance and health . The maximum threshold for water sulfate is 500 ppm for calves and 1,000 ppm for mature cattle ( Rasby and Walz , 2011
). Sulfates bind to beneficial minerals and cause issues with absorption due to these antagonistic interactions . High levels of sulfates are often the source of secondary copper deficiencies in beef cattle .
Sulfur that is present in feedstuffs will have a cumulative effect with sulfates in the water . High levels of dietary sulfur from feed and / or water can result in excessive hydrogen sulfide production in the rumen , contributing to the incidence of sulfur toxicity and thiamine deficiency . This can result in polioencephalomalacia ( PEM ), a brain disorder found in cattle .
Nitrates and other factors
Nitrates in drinking water can be a toxicity concern for cattle . The total nitrates are the sum of all of the nitrates in the feed and water . Nitrates are converted into nitrites in the rumen , which lead to a reduced oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood and can result in death . Symptoms of nitrate poisoning include labored breathing ,
SUMMER ISSUE – JUNE 2021
trembling , lack of coordination and the inability to stand . There are concerns to be mindful of when assessing water quality . Some of these involve other salts , minerals , blue-green algae , pesticides , temperature or even stray voltage . Many of these can impart undesirable odors or flavors that will discourage adequate water intake . For further reading on potentially toxic substances in drinking water and their tolerable limits , click here
Reproduction , health and growth are highly influenced by mineral nutrition . Water quality issues play a role in how the animal utilizes minerals . If trace mineral supplementation is a concern due to high sulfates , iron , etc ., keep in mind that high-quality organic trace minerals are more easily absorbed and used by the animal and are much less affected by antagonists . Hubbard Feeds ’ Blueprint ®
line of products is a great tool to help deal with antagonist problems and trace mineral deficiencies . This line does not include inorganic trace minerals but contains only Bioplex ®
organic trace minerals as the source of copper , zinc , manganese and cobalt , along with Sel-Plex ®
as a source of organic selenium .
In conclusion , it cannot be stressed enough just how crucial water is to cattle ’ s health , performance and wellbeing to ensure that your production goals are met . Cattle producers are often focused on finding the next tool to get a competitive edge . While it is good to seek out new and potentially better products and technology , water is a fundamental component to successful nutrition that should not be marginalized . Determining water quality issues in your operation is the first step to implementing nutritional solutions to address them . Water testing is an inexpensive way to understand the potential risks that may exist and a great start for laying the groundwork for animal success .
Josh Stroh attended Colorado State University , earning a bachelor ’ s degree in animal science . Afterwards , he received a master ’ s degree in science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( UNL ). While at UNL , he also coached the university livestock judging team .
Josh has a very diversified background in the beef business . Following graduate school , he worked in the embryo collection and transfer business , was a professor and department head of the agriculture program at Miles Community College , and managed a cow-calf operation in central Montana . He started his career with Hubbard Feeds as an account manager before moving to his current role in beef technical services , covering Montana and northern Wyoming .