By Alicia Sopatyk, PAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Tisdale
Water is the most important nutrient for livestock. Water is consumed in large quantities relative to other nutrients, resulting in an increased risk of dissolved minerals in the water that can affect animal health and productivity. Even with recent rains, it is important to know the quality of your livestock water sources.
The Ministry of Agriculture provides water screening and testing services through our regional offices and Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) offices. This service is available at no charge, provided the water is for livestock use and the livestock producer has a registered Premises Identification (PID) number in Saskatchewan.
One litre of water is required for each source and should be collected in a clean container, provided it can be reliably sealed, easily labelled and will not be at risk of breaking or leaking during transport. There are also sample jugs available in all regional or SCIC offices. Samples should be labelled with your name, source type (dugout, well, etc.), land location of the source and nick name of the source (i.e. East Pasture Slough). Collect the sample at the point where livestock are drinking from and keep it cool. Ideally, collect the sample the morning you plan to bring it into the regional or SCIC office.
Upon delivering your water sample, staff will ask for your contact information, PID number and a few specifics about the sample (timing of use, if visual symptoms/problems are observed, etc.). Where possible, livestock and feed extension specialists will screen samples using an electrical conductivity meter. While this is only an estimation of quality, we know that if conductivity is high, in most cases the water quality is poor. If the screen is borderline or there are extenuating circumstances, the sample will be sent to the Roy Romanow Lab for further testing. A specialist will follow up after receiving results from the lab to review them with you and assist in developing a management plan. This plan will also take feed into account, as a dietary approach is necessary when dealing with certain minerals.
Testing is the first step in determining water quality. Remember, turn-around times to receive results from the lab can vary. Allow ample time between sampling and use of the source in the event alternative plans need to be put into action.
Don’t delay, test your livestock water sources today. For more information about testing your water for livestock use, contact your local regional office or call the Agriculture Knowledge Center at 1-866-457-2377.