Summer has arrived. There are many areas of Oklahoma that did not get enough runoff water to adequately fill the stock ponds. Many producers will be forced to move cattle looking for forage and water. When drought causes a great reduction in surface water available in farm ponds, the issue of quality becomes nearly as important as quantity of water available.
Water is the one most important nutrient required by livestock! Decreased intake can adversely affect health, reproduction, and growth. Excessive salinity (salt) in livestock drinking water can upset the animals’ water balance and cause death. Unsafe levels of salt and toxins depend on the age of the animal, its stage of production, and the amount of water consumed each day. Water consumption is dependent on many factors, water intake for dry beef cows is around 1-1.5 gallons per 100 pounds of body weight and this estimate can double for cows nursing calves.
Oklahoma has many potential sources for run-off pond water contamination.
- Soil minerals and salt leaching from the ground.
- Oilfield drilling sites and saltwater disposal wells.
- Agriculture application of nitrate and sulfate fertilizer.
- Animal manure and human waste control systems.
Nitrates: 100 ppm or less should not harm livestock. 100-300 ppm should not harm livestock by itself, but beware of additive effects when animals are exposed to or grazing foodstuffs containing increased levels of nitrates (sudan, haygrazer, and johnsongrass).
Sulfates: Water levels of 2000-2500 ppm and sulfate levels in foodstuffs allowing the animal to attain a level of 4000 ppm or greater; can be associated with a neurological disease in cattle causing blindness.
Source: Gene Parker, DVM, Oklahoma State University Area Food Animal Quality and Health Specialist