Article Summary:

Water is the most important nutrient for livestock. Many problems and diseases are caused by the contamination of water. Given in this article is a detailed description of water contaminants and their effects on livestock.

Water is perhaps the most vital nutrient for livestock. As with feed ingredients, livestock water should meet the nutritional requirements of the animals.

An adequate quantity of clean water is critical for the production and maintenance of healthy livestock.

Water quality directly affects the health, growth, and reproduction of the animals and, ultimately, the overall productivity of the farm.

Therefore, water should be protected against contaminants such as microorganisms, metals, chemicals, and other pollutants like salts.

Water Footprint of Livestock:

Livestock animals, like all other living things, need water a lot of water.

The total amount of water needed to produce one pound of beef is 1800 gallons. That for one pound of pork is 576 gallons. For comparison, the water footprint of wheat is merely 184 gallons per pound.

Beef requires the largest amount of water because of the size of the animal. But the requirements go beyond just water. All of the resources required in the process of procurement of this water are also utilized a lot more.

Thus, the importance of water as the most vital nutrient cannot be stressed enough.

Water Contamination and Its Effects:

Although there is not enough research being done on the economic effects of water quality on livestock performance, common sense dictates that water supplies, either surface or ground, should be protected against contamination from microorganisms, chemicals, and other pollutants.

Substances that often contaminate water supplies for livestock farms include nitrates, bacteria, organic materials, and suspended solids.

A high level of suspended solids and an objectionable taste, odor, or color in water can cause animals to drink less than they should. This leads to dehydration in livestock, which in turn leads to more health complications.

There is always a chance that surface water supplies that animals have easy access to will be contaminated.

A variety of pathogenic organisms and poisons can be found in water. Blue-green algae can grow in stagnant water that has been contaminated with manure or other nutrients. These algae can poison animals and cause muscular spasms, liver damage, and even death.

During hot, dry weather, it's important to keep an eye out for algae and other dangerous organisms in farm pond water.

Leptospirosis and Fusobacterium are two bacterial pollutants that frequently spread from animal to animal through, respectively, dirt and water.

Animal carriers' urine is a major source of leptospirosis transmission. Problems with reproduction are one of this disease's frequent symptoms. Infertility, inadequate milk production, and a high rate of late-term abortion are just a few potential issues.

The creature can survive in surface waters for long periods of time. It is important to be cautious and refrain from pushing cattle to drink from water sources that can be tainted with urine.

Fusobacterium infection is more commonly known as foot-rot. Animals that step into water, carrying it on their feet, contaminate the water they step into.

The bacteria then enter through scrapes, dents, or puncture wounds on injured animal feet. Once within an animal's body, they quickly multiply and aid in the disease's spread.

The most typical clinical symptom of "foot-rot" is chronic lameness, frequently accompanied by swelling above the foot. Penicillin and sulfa are typically effective treatments for "foot-rot."

Veterinary aid should be sought to identify the actual disease when water is suspected of creating health issues in animals. It could be necessary to perform a laboratory diagnostic evaluation of the animals and the water source to determine the issue.

Common Water Quality Problems:

Livestock water should contain less than 5,000 coliform organisms per 100 milliliters. Fecal coliform should be next to nothing.

The following are some of the most common contaminants in livestock water:

1. Blue-Green Algae:

Water tainted with the toxins produced by blue-green algae can harm livestock.

Nodularia spumigena, Microcystis aeruginosa, and Anabaena circinalis are three types of blue-green algae. They have the ability to produce stunning flowers that resemble curdled green milk or shimmering green paint on water surfaces.

Algae grows when the water is contaminated with plant nutrients like organic and fecal matter and phosphorus. Algae grows quickly in shallow, quiet, warm water.

2. Waste of animals:

Birds, animal excrement, animal carcasses, runoff from bare paddocks, extensive livestock operations, or sewerage discharge can all contaminate water.

Low output, sickness, or cattle deaths may result from this.

Botulism and salmonellosis are two livestock diseases that may result from contamination of water with organic matter.

Within 48 hours of contamination, organic matter mats should be skimmed off of water's surface to prevent the material from settling.

Chlorine can be used to disinfect water that has become contaminated with organic material, but it does not completely eradicate all pathogenic bacteria or remove toxins already present in the water.

3. Heavy metals or chemicals:

Water may contain substances and elements that, at high amounts, could have hazardous effects or leave behind problems.

Pesticides and heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, zinc, and fluorides are of special concern.

Some heavy metals and pesticides tend to concentrate in run-off, seepage, or spills from agricultural land, as well as from industrial or sewage waste.

Farmers and livestock owners need to get a thorough water analysis if there is a high danger of contamination or if productivity losses are suspected.

Never use containers that have been used for herbicides, pesticides, or fertilisers for carting water for stock.

Water tainted with nitrogenous chemicals from fertilizer containers causes cattle deaths. Additionally, there is a chance that animals will develop chemical traces in their tissues, which, if discovered, could cause significant trade losses.

Water sampling:

Sampling of water is the initial step to its testing. If water tests are to be done without any room for error, proper sampling is a must.

The minimum sample volume for testing water should be 500 mL, and the bottle and cap should have been thoroughly cleaned three times in the water being tested.

Water can be collected in two ways:

  1. From Bores
  2. From Dams and Creeks

If at all possible, collect bore water samples after pumping for a while, directly from the outlet rather than a holding tank.

Surface water's salinity fluctuates greatly throughout the year, although it typically rises in the summer and fall as evaporation concentrates the salts. Under these circumstances, saline pools or layers can develop.

Water with a higher salinity has a tendency to drop to the bottom. Therefore, it does not mix with surface water. The salinity of the water can significantly rise when water levels fall.

Similar issues could arise from saline groundwater seeping into the base of a dam or watercourse. For these reasons, it is important to regularly measure the quality of the water.

To measure water salinity from deeper levels, use a water bottle wired to the end of some PVC pipe: dip the upside-down bottle into the water and when at the desired level, turn the bottle upright so that it fills with water.


Poor water quality may be the reason cattle get sick or die, but you can't be sure without an inquiry. Make an appointment with your personal or departmental veterinarian to look into the issue.

Until we meet again, Happy Farming!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2022-07-13