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Water Quality Management: Addressing an Overlooked Essential Nutrient

If the sanitation of your livestock or poultry drinking water isn't a priority today, it should be. Kemin sat down with Best Veterinary Solutions (BVS) Water Services Manager Mitch Downs to talk about today’s water-quality challenges — how they affect animal performance and how testing can help mitigate them. Here are some frequently asked questions that Downs answered for us.

Why is the quality of livestock and poultry drinking water important to managing performance? 

Water is arguably the number one input in livestock and poultry production, but it also tends to not be prioritized as much as it should be. It’s vital to have clean, high-quality water that stays sanitized and free of pathogens and other agents that could harm animal health and productivity.

Effective and ongoing sanitation has shown to improve various performance metrics including livability, feed conversion and weight gain,” Downs said. “If a producer with a water management program experiences interruptions in sanitation, we can often see results within a day or two.” 

Mitch Downs Pull Quote

Are producers prioritizing their water quality as much as they should be? 

“It spreads the gamut and varies by species,” Downs noted. “The poultry industry, specifically turkey producers, are leading the way in water management.”

Downs said some producers have a deep understanding of water quality and are taking steps to improve water quality. They’re looking at filtration and taking samples for testing. Others overlook water quality, which may hinder productivity in their operation. There can sometimes be a disconnect between the grower and the integrator about whose responsibility water testing and sanitation is, so it’s crucial to have these discussions.

What causes poor water quality?

Downs has experienced situations where challenges occur in source water before the water even gets to the poultry house or barn. Different water sources bring different challenges. For example, in treated water, many agents are removed from the water at a centralized plant before it makes it to the farm. This can leave hard water and limescale buildup in drinker systems, but it’s safe overall. Even if the water you are providing is safe initially, you can see animals introducing bacteria at the drinker through debris or organic material. That bacteria can reproduce and spread through the water line. Downs encourages additional sanitation on top of even the most ideal water quality.

Untreated well water can contain organic and inorganic contaminants that may contribute to issues with the drinker system. Nonbiological contaminants like iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide become undissolved once oxidized and can start to collect in and plug the waterline or filters, which can inhibit the effectiveness of a water sanitation process. 

Drinking Water Risks BCI

“We see some things added during the production cycle — like supplements, vaccines, medications — that can harbor bacteria growth,” said Downs. “If bacteria are allowed to grow through lack of sanitation, they can populate inside of water lines. As they go through their lifecycle, they can build up sludge, slime, or biofilm that can plug valves and openings at the drinker. Even with sanitation, if it isn’t at a proper level of efficacy, bacteria can work its way from the drinker back through the water lines.”

Poor water quality can also introduce microbiological challenges that can affect whole herds or flocks. “Bacterial issues, such as Bordetella, are very infectious and can lead to secondary infections and mortality issues. Coryza in chickens is another big one that can be caused by lack of water-system sanitation,” Downs said.

It’s important to understand what you’re dealing with in your water. Routinely having your operation’s drinking water tested can give you a good picture of overall quality.

Has the antibiotic-free movement affected drinking water quality challenges?

According to Downs, without antibiotics, it’s harder for flocks to recover if they encounter health challenges through their environment. Animal performance and health will consequently suffer continuously. So, it’s that much more important to maintain adequate sanitation and keep water lines clean to help reduce risk from that potential source of pathogens.

What’s a good solution for water sanitization? 

First, you need to know what’s in your water. Both BVS and Kemin can help you with water testing through Kemin’s Customer Laboratory Services Team. This team of scientists can perform several analyses and help you make informed decisions. Once you know what you are dealing with in a water source, Downs said chlorine dioxide has been a reliable solution for his team’s water experts. “Particularly with bacteria like Bordetella and Escherichia coli, effective water sanitation with chlorine dioxide has really made an impact,” Downs added.  

It’s a strong disinfectant that’s effective at a wide range of pH levels. Unlike other commonly used products like chlorine or hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide has much higher efficacy and can deliver superior results in water quality management as well as animal performance and health. 

4 Reasons to Test Your Water and Feed

More about chlorine dioxide

PRO-OXINE® AH (manufactured by Bio-Cide International, a Kemin Company) is a broad-spectrum stabilized chlorine dioxide disinfectant. It is proven to reduce pathogen exposure through drinking water systems by reducing and controlling slime buildup in water lines.

To learn more about a water-quality management system and how it can benefit your operation, contact your Kemin or BVS representative.

Who is Best Veterinary Solutions, Inc.?

Best Veterinary Solutions, Inc. is a leader in innovative animal health solutions from the world’s highest quality manufacturers. Our mission is to manufacture and supply products at the most reasonable cost with the highest standards of service in the industry.

The company’s water quality services include:

  • Equipment installation
  • Equipment servicing
  • Customer training
  • Technical support
  • Testing and sampling

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