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TDS and Electrical Conductivity

By Travis Peardon, PAg, Regional Livestock Specialist, Outlook

July 2017

Here’s what you need to know about the importance of testing frequently in hot weather and monitoring cattle:

Electrical conductivity (EC) is a measure of the capacity of water to conduct electrical current. It is directly related to the concentration of salts dissolved in water, and therefore to the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Since it is difficult to measure TDS in the field, the electrical conductivity of the water is used as a measure.  

The electrical conductivity of the water can be determined quickly using portable meters.  

EC can be converted to TDS using the following calculation: 

TDS (ppm) = 0.64 X EC (μS/cm) = 640 X EC (dS/m)

Beef cattle can handle water that has a maximum of 4000 to 5000 ppm TDS without issues (under normal circumstances). This is equivalent to an EC range of 6250 to 7810 μS/cm. If you are considering purchasing a portable unit to measure EC, it is important the unit can measure this range, or higher. If water comes back at the upper end of this limit it should be sent to a laboratory for further analysis to determine exact mineral concentrations.

For more information contact your Regional Livestock Specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge at 1-866-457-2377.

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