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Water: The Forgotten Essential

Livestock drinking water

Water - the forgotten nutrient


Water is essential for life, however the impact of water quality on livestock health and production is largely ignored.


This is worrying, considering that cattle are composed of 85% water, rather like ourselves and milk contains nearly 90% water.  This false sense of security regarding water quality is largely due to our historic dependency on the mains supply. Strict statutory regulations on water quality rigorously enforced, resulted in total confidence that mains water would not be harmful to farm livestock. How things have changed in recent years!


Increasing water charges, amounting to over £10,000 per year for the average dairy unit, have forced farmers to consider alternative supplies from natural springs, boreholes and even local rivers. When an indigenous water source starts to be used, the local authority usually takes a sample to check the quality, however the analysis is not related to livestock health, with limited interpretation of the results.


Minerals in Livestock Drinking Water Report


Because water quality is critical for the health of all farm animals, an interpretative analytical report has been developed, which is designed to clearly show any risk factors to cow health. Water generally contains low levels of mineral elements, but in some circumstances, high levels of certain minerals can compromise livestock health. The Livestock Drinking Water Report sample, presents the average analysis of just under 1,500 samples taken from UK livestock units over the past three years. On average UK farm indigenous water supplies have a neutral pH, are “hard” and have high levels of iron and manganese. However, the variation from farm to farm is enormous and occasionally even between water sources taken from different sites on the same farm.


Water naturally contains a wide range of mineral nutrients which reflects the composition of underlying rocks.


In the majority of cases the level of minerals and trace elements in water is insignificant in terms of the dietary supply from forages and feeds. Consequently, unless a very high level of calcium or sodium is found, the mineral composition of water should not be taken into account when formulating mineral supplements.




Water quality is essential for livestock health and productivity. Identifying water borne mineral and microbial risk factors to animal health is an important management practice where the livestock unit is dependent on an indigenous supply from deep boreholes, shallow wells, reservoirs, springs and rivers. Equally important is acting on the laboratory data to minimise risk factors and by installing appropriate water treatment equipment designed to reduce the identified risk to herd health.


Mole Valley Feed Solutions offer a livestock drinking water analysis service covering both minerals and microbes to ensure water quality supports rather than compromises cattle health and productivity.

For more information on water analysis or mineral related topics, please ring the mineral line on 01278 420481 or email [email protected]


Source Details

 627 Mole Valley Farmers Newsletter

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