Livestock Water Quality

          Even though most of Burke County had good runoff from snow melt this spring and many areas have continued to receive good rains this summer, water quality for livestock producers should be a concern. I have been noticing a lot of algae growth in some water holes and sloughs. As the weather turns hotter and dryer producers should be on the lookout for blue-green algae blooms which can be indicative of cyanobacteria. These algae can appear as scum on or just below the surface and may be green, red, or even yellow, turning blue after the bloom dies.

          Not all species of cyanobacteria are toxic but those that are can be deadly with sudden losses of livestock. Symptoms, including weakness, staggering, muscle tremors, convulsions, and death can appear within minutes after consuming contaminated water or may be delayed several hours. If you suspect cyanobacteeria poisoning check the areas around the water source for dead wildlife. Absence of ducks and waterfowl may be indicative of bad water.

          Not all water quality problems are related to blue-greeen algae. Many of our waterholes and wells are high in sulfates and TDS (total dissolved solids) including a variety of salts and other minerals. Drought can increase these problems through evaporation but these problems can be present in high rainfall years as well.

          Livestock losses are not the only aspect of poor water quality. Sub lethal levels can often cause poor growth of calves and poor rebreeding rates of cows. If you have any concerns about water quality in your pastures please give me a call. I have testing equipment here in the office. I can test your samples or come out and take a sample. NDSU Extension/Burke County located in the Burke County Courthouse. (701) 377-2927