1 DIVISION OF AGRICULTURE Agriculture and Natural Resources R E S E A R C H & E X T E N S I O N University of Arkansas System FSA3021 Water for Beef Cattle relative humidity and the breed of Livestock require the proper Shane Gadberry cattle. balance of water, carbohydrates When highmoisture feeds Associate Professor protein, vitamins and miner as silage or fresh forages are such (energy), Animal Science als for optimal levels of performance. used, water intake as drinking water Because of the need to is reduced. water is the most Of these nutrients, livestock. critical for all classes of excrete more urine, high levels of salt or protein in the feed increase water Cattle have little ability to adapt needs. In areas with high humidity, and feed intake to water restriction, animals require somewhat less water will be greatly reduced following only because of lower losses to evaporation. Because short periods without water. Brahman cattle have a greater ability of this, a plentiful supply of good qual to adapt to hot, dry conditions than ity water is necessary for profitable so they the temperate breeds of cattle, beef production. better withstand shortterm water Because of the importance restriction. Water Requirements of water to body function and the difficulty in estimating requirements, Many factors influence the cattle in all circumstances should amount of water required by cattle. have free access to all the quality Table 1 shows average water needs water they will consume. various classes of beef cattle. for Note that water consumption varies Water Quality depending on the tem considerably, perature and stage of production. Quality of drinking water for both These allowances are not absolute humans and livestock is a growing requirements and should only be national issue. Some water supplies used as a guide in developing water have been contaminated by agricul sources or as a starting point for tural chemicals or contain naturally supplying water to penned cattle. occurring contaminants that interfere The pur with animal performance. Water consumption is influenced pose of this fact sheet is to provide an such as moisture and by other factors, outline for maximum tolerable levels salt intake, protein level of the feed, Table 1. Estimated Daily Water Intake of Cattle, Gallons/Day (adapted from a table prepared by Paul Q. Guyer, University of Nebraska) Cows Growing and Finishing Cattle Dry and Daily Nursing Bred High 1 Calves Cows Bulls 1,000 lb 400 lb 600 lb 800 lb Temp (F°) Gallons/Day 8 35 11 6 7 4 5 6 Arkansas Is 50 5 13 7 9 6 7 9 Our Campus 65 16 8 11 6 7 9 11 7 80 18 11 13 9 10 14 15 11 19 17 95 20 15 20 Visit our web site at: 1 First four months of lactation. http://www.uaex.edu University of Arkansas, United States Department of Agriculture, and County Governments Cooperating
2 of contaminants in water and to promote practices blood cells into methemoglobin, which is brown in Excessive nitrate color and does not bind oxygen. that help to maintain water quality and prevent pollution of water sources by beef cattle. intake (acute toxicity) may result in a lethargic ani mal and sudden death. Animals may adapt to high Salinity. Waters that contain high levels of levels of nitrate if levels are raised gradually, but salts (TDS) can result in depressed perfor dissolved chronic exposure either in feed or water may result in mance of beef cattle. These waters are normally depressed feed intake, depressed growth rate and found The in wells in coastal regions of the southeast. In some situations, abortions. nitrate levels in water following guidelines should be used with water high will be below maximum tolerable levels, but because In general, the type of salt (whether it is in TDS. of substantial levels of nitrate in forages, the water sodium chloride or a complex mixture) primarily may contribute to a nitrate toxicity problem. little influence on the acceptable levels. has Cattle prefer water containing some salt, but increasing Nitrates in runoff from agricultural fields are levels to about 5,000 ppm TDS reduces intake and quickly dissipated from rapidly flowing surface average daily gain by about 10 percent for feedlot so nitrate is normally a waters through volatilization, cattle. Water containing from 5,000 to 7,000 ppm especially shal problem met when using well water, TDS is safe for cattle in most cases but likely results Avoid ditches and low wells in agricultural areas. Water containing from in depressed performance. ponds as water sources because ditches and ponds on 7,000 to 10,000 ppm TDS is safe only for dry cows poorly drained land can collect runoff from cropland and water under low levels of environmental stress, which may contain high levels of nitrates as well as containing more than 10,000 ppm TDS should not be Failure to test soil over many other agrochemicals. used for cattle. years results in excessive nitrogen fertilization in some areas. The nitrogen then leaches into the soil When use of a water source high in TDS is and enters shallow groundwater. necessary, gradually adapt animals rather than rapidly switch water sources. It is also important The leaching of nitrate from improper waste to consider the fact that consumption of salty feeds, management facilities around livestock, especially such as a saltlimited protein or mineral supplement, heavy concentrations of swine operations on sandy When is influenced by TDS in drinking water. soils, may contaminate shallow surface water. are fed saltlimited supplements and the animals water supply is highly saline, intake of the supple When planning a forage system that may lead to ment is reduced and protein or mineral deficiency high forage nitrate levels, it is strongly recommended Individual salt compounds may be could result. that cattle drinking water be tested for nitrates. measured to determine TDS, or electrical conductivity may be used to estimate salinity of water. Bluegreen algae. Stagnant waters may contain which may be excessive levels of bluegreen algae, Nitrates. Nitrate in drinking water can be a toxic and result in death of cattle. Because of their problem for livestock in the southeastern United stagnant, nutrientrich nature, small ponds and A guide to evaluating water contaminated States. streams in late summer can have toxic algae blooms. with nitrates is given in Table 2. Water test results Toxicity is most common following a rapid bloom in generally have nitrates and nitrites combined and late summer when cattle are consuming a substantial may report levels as nitrate nitrogen, nitrate ion or The problem is amount of the algal surface scum. This can greatly affect interpretation sodium nitrate. and the first sign may be sudden difficult to predict, Levels in Table 2 are expressed in the of the results. animal death. it is advisable to Because of this, three major forms that may be reported. restrict cattle access to stagnant waters, especially but it can Nitrate is not poisonous to livestock, when a substantial amount of algae scum is visible. be converted in the gastrointestinal tract to nitrite, Algae blooms can be controlled in ponds through the Nitrite which impairs oxygen transport by the blood. use of copper sulfate (blue stone), but the rapid die converts the hemoglobin (which binds oxygen) in red off of algae may result in a fish kill. Guide to the Use of Waters Containing Nitrate for Cattle (National Academy of Sciences, 1974) Table 2. A 1 Form of Nitrogen Reported (ppm) Acceptability Nitrate Ion Sodium Nitrate Nitrate Nitrogen (NaNO (NO ) ) N) (NO 3 3 3 Less than 100 Less than 443 Less than 607 Safe 2 100300 4431329 6071821 Questionable 3 Over 300 Over 1329 Over 1821 Unsafe 1 Water analysis labs will report values in one of these three ways. Values are reported in parts per million (ppm). 2 These waters should be used with caution. High nitrate in forages, or high temperatures (high water intake), could result in problems. 3 Cattle should not have access to these waters.
3 The best method to control algae is to eliminate Table 3. Recommended Limits for Some Potentially the source of nutrients entering the pond. If copper oxic Substances in Drinking Water for Beef Cattle T sulfate is used, the recommended application rate to Safe Upper Limit Substance water depends on the alkalinity (total carbonates and (ppm) mg/L bicarbonates) of the water. Copper ions can kill fish if .2 Arsenic Copper the water’s total alkalinity is below 40 ppm. Cadmium .05 sulfate treatment may be ineffective if alkalinity of Calcium 500 the water is greater than 300 ppm. The maximum 1500 Chloride level of copper sulfate in water is 2.7 (sheep) tolerable 1.0 Chromium and 6.8 (cattle) pounds of copper sulfate per acrefoot. Cobalt 1.0 1 The formula to calculate the pounds of copper Cyanide NE sulfate needed is as follows: 2.0 Fluoride Iron NE Total alkalinity (ppm) x 2.04 x acrefoot volume = Lead .1 100 Magnesium 250 Pounds of copper sulfate needed Manganese NE Do not exceed the application limits for livestock, .01 Mercury Livestock (especially sheep) should especially sheep. NE Molybdenum not be watered for at least five days after the last Nickel 1.0 Care should be visible evidence of the algae bloom. Nitrate nitrogen See Table 2 taken to avoid water that has algae cells, either from Salinity (total soluble salts) 3000 treatment with algicide or natural aging of the 1000 Sodium bloom, because most toxin is freed in the water only Sulfate 500 after breakdown of the intact algae cells. 2500 Total dissolved solids Substances in water. Other substances in Range 5.5 to 8.5 pH water that may cause problems for beef cattle are .1 Vanadium listed in Table along with maximum safe levels. 3, Zinc 25.0 Problems that are common are high or low pH or 1 No upper limit established because of limited experimental data. of sulfates, excessive levels iron or hydrogen sulfide, Table 4. Maximum Allowable Concentrations of manganese. These factors may result in decreased Pesticides in Human Drinking Water (From “Water exces water intake because of offflavors. In addition, Quality for Livestock,” T. L. Carson, 1987 ) sive levels of some minerals may interfere with nor mal trace especially of copper mineral absorption, Maximum Concentration Pesticide (ppm) mg/L and lead to nutritional deficiencies. and zinc, .001 Aldrin In some situations, shallow groundwater or DDT .05 surface water may be contaminated with agricultural .001 Dieldrin chemicals such as pesticides. Any shallow well, .003 Chlordane stream or pond adjacent to cropland with a long Endrin .0002 history of agricultural chemical use should be tested .0001 Heptachlor for major chemicals before being used as the water Lindane .004 source for cattle. Guidelines for pesticides and herbi Methoxychlor .1 cides in water for beef cattle have not been estab .005 Toxaphene lished, so allowable levels in drinking water for 2,4D .1 Because of the possibil humans are given in Table 4. .01 2,4,5T ity that these chemicals in water could lead to take every effort to prevent water residues in meat, Water Quality Laboratory through local Center, contamination. county Extension offices. Water supplies Sampling water for analysis. Maintaining water quality and preventing should be taken for analysis if a producer suspects water pollution. Because of the importance of high water is causing a problem or when a new source of quality water to beef production, producers should do If sampling will be done only water is developed. everything possible to maintain the quality of their take samples when water is at its lowest qual once, water sources. If a well is used as the primary water Quality shouldn’t vary much for springs and ity. it should be properly graded and capped to source, but ponds and streams will normally be low wells, and prevent contamination by runoff surface water, in quality during late summer. est Test streams and fertilizer and other chemical applications to adjacent ponds when water is highest (winter) and lowest pasture or cropland should be closely controlled. (summer) in quality. Care should be taken to get representative of what the cattle are sample a Apply nitrogen fertilizers only according to soil Water analysis can be evaluated for abi drinking. Forage systems decreasing the need for test results. otic (nonliving such as pH) and biotic (living such added nitrogen should be used. In addition, keep In Arkansas, ) components. coli E. as water samples waterers as clean as possible. A waterer with exces can be submitted to the Arkansas Water Resources sive algal growth or other filth can decrease water
4 intake and performance, even though the water is developing a spring or diverting flow from pond, a perennial stream. apparently of high quality. Ponds. If a new pond is to be built, plans should Cattle should not have unlimited access to ponds include fencing around the pond and a pipe to run and streams. In addition to using these water sources drinking water to a tank at the base of the dam. cattle will also loaf in water, especially for drinking, and a drinking Older ponds should also be fenced, This results in both fecal and urinary in hot weather. tank installed at the base of the dam. Freezeproof contamination. In ponds and slowflowing streams, Ponds used tanks work very well in these situations. this results in deteriorating water quality as summer for cattle in this manner provide a very highquality, progresses. Cows can also contract diseases such yearround water source. mastitis and leptospirosis from lounging in as dirty water. Wells. Wells provide excellent quality water in most areas if they are deep enough to prevent conta When cattle have recently been sprayed with mination from leaching of chemicals and nitrates insecticides or tagged with fly tags, they should not Wells should be located away from agricultural fields. be allowed to loaf in water. Allowing free access to animal confinement areas and lagoons from cropland, ponds can result in fish kills, or possibly complete The biggest problem with wells is or septic systems. Ponds can be kept clean and sterilization of a pond. and you that they are relatively expensive to drill, provide goodquality water if they are fenced, and still may end up with a dry hole. Be careful to ensure cattle have access to only a small area in one corner, that there will be an adequate volume of water even or if water is run through a pipe to a tank at the base in dry weather. a deep well with a In many cases, of the dam. Quality of the pond for recreational uses most reliable good production rate will be the safest, such as swimming and fishing will also be improved source of water for beef cattle. by keeping the cattle out. Springs and streams. Springs and streams are Weeds and algae may be a problem in ponds, relatively inexpensive sources of water for beef cattle especially if they get drainage water from cropland, if developed properly. Fence the water source (the if cattle have free access to the ponds. To control or spring head or stream) from cattle. Pipe the water to such problems, first find and eliminate the source of or make water available at a stream drinking tanks, nutrients if possible. Herbicides can be used to kill Consider the reliability of the water flow crossing. and copper sulfate can be used to the weeds, off from springs and streams before developing pastures. control algae. Using intermittent sources may leave you without water during the times when water requirements are cattle When open streams are the water source, highest – in hot, dry weather. cause stream bank erosion and contaminate the water with manure and urine. The sediment and Water for intensive grazing systems. Most nutrientpolluted water then flows to the next farm intensive grazing systems have utilized a centralized and eventually enters rivers and lakes where it can watering station with a lane(s) leading to the grazing water Likewise, cause algae blooms and fish kills. paddocks. Under this system cattle must travel fre contaminants may enter the farm from upstream, quently between the grazing area and the watering and the contaminated water can result in spread of station. This leads to excessive trampling of pastures For these reasons, diseases such as leptospirosis. and transfer of nutrients off the paddocks and into preventing cattle access to streams is advisable to the lanes and watering area. protect the producers and their neighbors, as well as the general public. Experience has shown that individual waterers in each paddock increase the amount of time animals Developing Water Sources improve animal performance and keep spend grazing, recycled nutrients in the pastures where they belong, for Beef Cattle reducing the inputs necessary to maintain adequate Relatively inexpensive systems for plant nutrition. a new beef cattle operation In many situations, movable waterers utilizing quickcouplers and high developed or an attempt is made to upgrade exist is Water burstproof pipe have been developed. density, ing water sources for more intensive grazing manage ers can be constructed of inexpensive materials (such a common question is, ment. In these situations, as plastic drums cut in half) equipped with float “What kind of water source should be developed?” valves and can be moved along with the cattle with but the all This is usually a question of economics, very little additional labor. around best options are establishing a deep well or Printed by University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Printing Services. DR. SHANE GADBERRY is associate professor animal science Acts of May 8 Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, the Department of Animal Science, with University of Arkansas System 1914, and June 30, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Division of Agriculture, Little Rock. Agriculture , Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agricul ture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, and is an genetic information, or any other legally protected status, Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. FSA3021PD22016RV
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