While there are specific testing protocols for these materials, the first step in determining the basic cleanliness of your water is a simple one.
“Would you drink from the same water source as your livestock or poultry? If no, then why not?” Marsteller said. “Water tests can be utilized to determine if the water source is acceptable. Many state laboratories will test water for a nominal fee to determine quality based on measures like total dissolved solids, pH and nitrates. Also, test the water source at least yearly to be assured of quality water for your animals. Water sources may range from rural water districts to on-site wells or pond water. Some of these sources may be challenging animals’ water intake.”
The Role of Delivery Systems
Sometimes, all it takes is a look or smell to determine if your water supply isn’t clean. When hydrogen sulfides are in excessive concentrations because of bacterial growth inside a water line, for example, water typically has the odor of rotten eggs. Rust inside water lines and waterers can indicate high iron content. Heavy scale buildup on water lines can be a sign that pH is high and calcium and magnesium are building up. A quick inspection of watering systems is a good first step in determining if any of these conditions are potentially causing a drag on animal performance, Marsteller said.
“These conditions inside the pipeline that delivers water to animals may impact both quality and quantity,” he said. “This is very important, especially as summer months approach and the animals’ demand for water increases.”
In many cases, an unclean water source or supply can cause animal performance drags that may be more difficult to diagnose, especially in larger barns and facilities with multiple livestock water sources. Regularly inspecting your watering systems can help ensure it isn’t the culprit of animal performance.
“The water quality and cleanliness may be different at various locations at the animal facility. Sourcing acceptable water and keeping the acceptable water free from contamination is key for livestock and poultry performance,” Marsteller said.
The Connection Between Water and Stress
While the cleanliness of water can have a considerable impact on overall animal health, so too can the general availability of water — especially at critical times. Any condition or life stage that causes animal stress can be intensified when the right amount of clean water is not available. Those points of stress can adversely affect animal performance by weakening the tight junctions in gastrointestinal epithelial tissue, which can open the door to other health problems.