ENID, Okla. —
Thankfully, recent rains have replenished nearby ponds and provided some new forage growth for the beef herds in this area of the state.
Even though many areas have been blessed with ample rain this past month, we must not brush aside issues resulting from the evident drought.
Water is an essential nutrient for livestock second only to oxygen. Adequate water intake is extremely important to maximize performance in cattle. However, water often does not receive the necessary attention to ensure we are providing the sufficient quantity and quality water for our livestock. During dry conditions, it is important to keep in mind that when the amount of water in a pond is decreasing, there is a good chance the quality of water could be compromised as well. Sometimes, it’s the things we can’t see visually that can be equally — if not more — dangerous to our livestock.
In the next two weeks, we will be focusing on the importance of water quality for livestock, specifically focusing on the beef herd. In the following paragraphs, I have listed a number of common water related issues that producers should be aware of as they care for their beef herds this summer.
Depending on other sulfur sources within the diet, elevated levels of sulfates in water can affect cattle in three ways: Cause reduced water and therefore reduced feed intake; cause sulfur toxicity due to ingestion of high levels of sulfur; and induce trace mineral deficiencies.
The recommended level of sulfur in cattle diets is 0.15 percent with maximum tolerance at 0.40 percent. Some grain byproducts (dried distillers’ grains, corn gluten feed) and molasses-based liquid feed supplements can greatly contribute to overall sulfur in the diet. Compounded with elevated sulfates in water, dietary sulfur could be well above dietary and causing reductions in performance.
Polioencephalomacia (PEM) is a metabolic/neurological condition that occurs when high levels of dietary sulfur are ingested. Symptoms of PEM include lethargy, reduced feed intake, blindness, muscle tremors, lack of coordination, convulsions and death.