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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #306077

Research Project: Adaptive Rangeland Management of Livestock Grazing, Disturbance, and Climatic Variation

Location: Livestock and Range Research Laboratory

Title: Sources of variability in livestock water quality over 5 years in the Northern Great Plains

item Petersen, Mark
item Muscha, Jennifer - Boyle
item MULLINIKS, TRAVIS - University Of Tennessee
item Waterman, Richard
item Roberts, Andrew - Andy
item Rinella, Matthew - Matt

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/19/2015
Publication Date: 2/1/2015
Citation: Petersen, M.K., Muscha, J.M., Mulliniks, T.T., Waterman, R.C., Roberts, A.J., Rinella, M.J. 2015. Sources of variability in livestock water quality over 5 years in the Northern Great Plains. Journal of Animal Science. doi:10.2527/jas2014-8028.

Interpretive Summary: The quality of water available for livestock consumption, in most rangeland grazing situations can be highly variable. Water quality has been shown to effect drinkability, animal growth rate, health, milk production and mortality. The objective of this study was to determine the magnitude of variability in water quality due to source, location and season in a 5 year interval. In addition, a secondary objective is to establish the frequency in which water quality exceeds the upper safe limits for animal health. We propose from our findings calcium, chloride, magnesium, nitrate and pH require the least amount of oversight and analysis since the average concentration of these minerals did not exceed the upper safe limits. At the site studied, location was important because, the north, which is an elevated bench 100 meters above the Yellowstone River, had the lowest proportion of samples to have values above the upper safe limits. Sampling season wet or dry (May and September) was not a strong indicator for differentiating anti-quality changes; however, there were instances where solute concentrations increased from May to September in specific years. In contrast, years approaching or exceeding normal precipitation, samples taken in the May or September provided nearly equivalent information. Our results suggest managers of stock water should regularly monitor concentrations of fluoride, iron, sodium, sulfate and possibly manganese and TDS as factors with the greatest risk to negatively impact range cattle production.

Technical Abstract: Mineral content of livestock water grazing rangelands can be a source of minerals affecting health and drinkability. To estimate yearly variation in water mineral concentrations, 11 indicators of quality were measured (Ca, Cl, Fe, Fl, Mg, Mn, Na, NO3-N, pH, SO4, total dissolved solids (TDS) and temperature (temp)) at 45 livestock water sites over 5 years from 2009 through 2013 at the 22,257 ha USDA-ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, Montana. Water was sampled from 4 sources: (1) flowing surface water, (2) ground water, (3) reservoirs, and (4) springs. The sampled area was classified into 3 geographical locations: (1) north (N), (2) southeast (SE), and (3) southwest (SW) of the Yellowstone River. Samples were collected twice yearly in 2 seasons, May (wet) and September (dry). Year, location, source, and season and their interactions were analyzed as a 5×3×4×2 factorial arrangement of treatments. A location by year interaction (P < 0.04) was found for Mg, Na, SO4, and TDS. The SW location had the greatest concentrations in 2012 of Na, SO4 and TDS. A source by year interaction (P < 0.02) was found for Ca, Fe, Fl, Mg, Mn, Na, SO4, TDS and temp. Iron, Mg, and Mn had the greatest concentrations in flowing surface water in 2012. In addition, lower precipitation in 2012 was associated with elevated mineral concentrations in sources in the SW location and surface flowing water. Average concentrations of Ca, Cl, Mg, NO3-N and pH across sources and locations did not exceed the upper maximum intake level for beef cattle, providing evidence that these minerals require the least amount of oversight. In contrast, concentrations of Fl, Fe, Na, SO4 and TDS exceeding upper maximum intake level for beef cattle were observed, implicating these minerals as having the greatest risk to negatively impact range beef cattle performance.