Water quality and animal performance


“The water should be sampled from the inlet and not from the water trough. The samples should arrive at the laboratory within 24 hours”

A part from oxygen, water is the single most important nutrient for livestock. Animals need a plentiful supply of good, clean water for normal digestion and metabolism (including fermentation), proper flow of feed through the digestive tract and proper nutrient utilisation. However, water quantity and quality are often ignored or taken for granted on many livestock operations.

Good quality water can be defined by a number of factors including taste, smell, presence or absence of bacteria and other harmful substances. A routine water analysis, at least twice a year may help identify potential contaminants and the need for water treatment or change of water source.

Conducting a water analysis is simple, if done correctly. Sterilised sample bottles should be used and the water source should be sampled during times when the animals are drinking. The water should be sampled from the inlet and not from the water trough. The samples should arrive at the laboratory within 24 hours. On first sampling, a broad-spectrum analysis is recommended with follow-up sampling conducted if the water contains any harmful elements, which meet or exceed the upper desired levels for livestock.

Some potential water problems are detrimental to both humans and livestock. Contamination with coliform bacteria needs attention and elimination of the site of contamination is recommended. Iron and manganese contamination may have the greatest impact on animal performance by reducing water palatability, as these minerals have a bitter taste. They also create deposits on pipes and can therefore hinder water flow. Iron is one of the major antagonists for trace mineral absorption in the digestive tract; therefore, attention to the levels of this element in water is important.

Nitrates/nitrites may cause reproductive failure, reduced growth and poor oxygen carrying capacity of blood. Sulphates generally have a laxative effect on livestock, consequently reducing feed efficiency.

One needs to identify the type of sulphate present in water and then determine the type of treatment system used. Sulphur/sulphates also affect copper and selenium absorption, therefore creating a need for adjustment of these trace minerals in the feed.

Corrective measures can be put in place but before this is considered, retest and verify the presence of poor quality water and consult a reputable water specialist.

Feeding Zinpro Performance Minerals® optimises animal performance and ensures adequate supplies of zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt. Zinpro Performance Minerals® are more bio-available in the presence of mineral antagonists than other forms of organic trace minerals. Contact your nutrition consultant or Zinpro representative to evaluate and identify any potential effects of water quality on animal

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