The quality of livestock water is a vital element in livestock production, affecting numerous processes, including:
- Body temperature
Livestock water is also a means of carrying amino acids, minerals, glucose and vitamins to animals.
But water supplies are also vulnerable to contamination, which can then affect the quality of drinking water for livestock.
Why is Good Water Quality Essential?
Water is a fundamental nutrient for livestock production. Animals require water for various reasons, and this requirement is influenced by several factors:
- Type of diet
- Feed intake
- Environmental conditions.
Intake during feeds, and consumption of free, ad lib water are the two major ways livestock consume water.
Animals need access to a clean, ready water supply to maintain their feed intake. Ad libwater access plays an important part in this, satisfying the daily requirements of livestock.
This can present a challenge, as Defra research suggests. With water consumed in such large quantities by livestock, there is an increased risk that contaminants in it could reach levels high enough to cause harm.
This is especially true for projected future scenarios involving rainwater harvesting to meet increased demand for livestock water as global climates change.
Consumption of drinking water by livestock is high:
- A dairy cow in milk requires between 68 and 155 litres a day
- A gestating sow consumes between 13 and 18 litres a day
- A ewe with lamb, between 9 and 10.5 litres a day.
For poultry, per 1,000 the requirements include:
- Broilers, five to eight weeks, 345 to 470 litres a day
- Laying fowl, 180 to 320 litres a day.
All animals need continuous access to water. Poor water quality can lead to a reduction in water and feed consumption, which affects animal health, and, ultimately, can mean a loss of production.
What Contaminants Can Alter the Quality of Drinking Water?
Various contaminants can alter livestock water quality, such as:
- Mineral salts
- Heavy metals
- Microbial loads
- Animal faeces.
Generally, contaminated water will lead to a reduction in how much the animals consume. But, if water or feed contains increased salt, then their intake will increase.
The salt content of water is determined by its total dissolved solids (TDS). Water that has a high TDS content can have high concentrations of nitrates and sulphates.
High sulphate concentrations in livestock water can lead to copper deficiencies. This can result in poor growth and reduced appetite. In some cases, cattle can die from copper deficiency.
High nitrate concentrations be toxic, because cattle and sheep can convert the water’s nitrate content into nitrate in the rumen, reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of haemoglobin.
Other common contaminants in water are bacteria. High concentrations of bacteria can lead to various conditions and infections, including:
- Low milk production
- Reproductive problems
- Foot rot.
Where manure contaminates livestock water, this may lead to the development of blue-green algae, which can be toxic to livestock.
Micro-organisms thrive where there is a combination of water and nutrients. They attach themselves to a suitable surface and multiply, creating biofilm.
Once it takes hold, biofilm can be difficult to shift, without the right kind of disinfectant application.
Maintaining a clean water supply for livestock is crucial, to maintain healthy animals and livestock production.
But what measures can you take to improve water quality for livestock?
How to Improve Livestock Water Quality
These are the common forms of treatment for livestock water:
- Reverse osmosis
- UV sterilisation
- Chemical water treatments.
Reverse osmosis, or RO, is a non-chemical treatment where water is pushed through a semi-permeable membrane. In this cross-flow filtration process, the membrane’s thin film composite removes impurities from the water.
Only hydrogen and oxygen can pass through it.
It can remove up to 99% of total dissolved solids in water, and it is both energy efficient and easy to maintain.
Another method is UV sterilisation. Here, you apply UV energy to kill micro-organisms in water using a germicidal ultraviolet lamp.
The ultraviolet radiation penetrates outer membranes of cells and disrupts their DNA to prevent them from reproducing.
Bacteria and viruses cannot withstand UV energy, but this method cannot guarantee 100% destruction of micro-organisms.
And, as a point disinfectant, it will only kill bacteria at one point in a water system, so if any bacteria escape from this point, they can attach themselves to surfaces further downstream.
Also, it does not kill bacteria cells but instead converts them into pyrogens, and in some cases these can become fuel for other bacteria to thrive on.
The alternative to RO and UV sterilisation for improving livestock water quality is chemical water treatment.
Typically, these involve adding either chlorine dioxide or hydrogen-peroxide to water systems.
Both chemicals will kill a broad range of bacteria. Chlorine dioxide has been long-established as a water treatment chemical, with silver-stabilised hydrogen peroxide becoming a more commonplace treatment from the 1970s onwards.
There are environmental concerns around chlorine-based products; and Hydrogen peroxide is non-harmful to humans and animals, but it can leave behind silver and silver nitrate residues that are harmful to plants.
But there is now another alternative, Oxyl-Pro.
Oxyl-Pro is a hydrogen-peroxide based disinfectant that has been stabilised using food-safe ingredients.
It is a stable decontamination agent, which will destroy biofilms and micro-organisms quickly.
Oxyl-Pro is highly versatile, with multiple applications, and it is especially wells-suited for livestock water treatment.