Livestock Water Analysis
Livestock water is an important component of any nutritional program. Until you know what is in the water that your cattle or sheep are drinking everyday, you do not have a true handle on your supplemental nutrition program.
Here in Central NM we have enough salt in our water that we really do not need to supplement with plain salt. We still use salt in our cubes and mineral, but basically for increasing consumption of both (palatability) and with higher rates we can also limit consumption of our loose mineral to control intake to appropriate levels. Further problems caused by our water is the high total disolved solids (TDS), that along with other high mineral content in the water, increases our risk of water belly (urinary calculi). We have to add ammonium chloride to our mineral if we over-winter steer calves, and we know this by looking at the water analysis, and from prior experience of water belly in steers on the ranch and others in the area. Further note, is a high sulphur content in our water. With an increase in use of higher sulphur containing alternative feed byproducts in cubes and rations, the stage may be set for instances of Polio-encephalomyelitis. I have seen two instances this year, one on the ranch and the other at a ranch to the north. High sulphur consumption can disturb thiamin metabolism causing a disturbance in the brain, leading to blindness, lethargic reactions, aimless walking, head pressing, etc. and eventually death. These are just a few reactions with water intake that come to mind that can be identified by analyzing water on the ranch.
Testing Water Sources
It is a great idea to have your water sources tested. This can be done in a number of ways, however the easiest would be to contact your county agent. They will be able to provide you with all the information and probably give you a testing kit. Also, when analysis is complete they have all the resources available to give you the proper results with indications of any concerns that might be present with the results.
Most of us have taken water samples at wells or the end of a garden hose off of the house well, however one source that may not come to mind would be storage tanks that have set all season without use, we just keep filling them up for the deer pronghorn. Evaporation during a season of little use will concentrate most minerals two and three fold. This could possibly cause a toxic event when turning livestock onto the water for the first time after setting and evaporating for a time. I have starting thinking back to the few instances where I blamed a poisonous plant for a death after moving to new pasture, but know I wonder if concentrated minerals, such as sulphur, was the culprit. If you know you have a high level of some mineral, testing the storage for concentrated levels might be a good idea, or flushing the tank and refilling would also be a good idea.
General Information from the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
Water Quality for Livestock and PoultryA great resource to reference after you receive your test results.