Have You Had Your Annual Water Checkup?

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Annual water tests are recommended for private wells, especially for shallow wells and whenever a problem is suspected. Owners of private wells can have their water tested by collecting a sample themselves or by hiring a qualified person to do so. The sample should be taken to a certified laboratory for analysis. Sample bottles should be obtained from the testing laboratory or local health department because there may be containers that are specially prepared for a specific contaminant. Sampling and handling procedures depend on the water quality concern and should be followed carefully.

Water analyses typically include the following tests:

•    Total coliform bacteria
•    pH (acid or alkaline level)
•    Total dissolved solids
•    Total soluble salt
•    Salinity
•    Hardness
•    Nitrates
•    Sulfate
•    Other factors, such as toxicity problems with specific minerals or pesticides or, occasionally, heavy algae growth

There are no regulations governing the number of microorganisms or bacteria in water used for livestock production unless the farm is a Grade A dairy. In that case, the water must be from a supply that provides water of safe and sanitary quality with no detectable fecal coliform bacteria. Water must be tested after any repairs or modifications to the water supply system. In addition, specific requirements prohibit back-siphoning from outdoor livestock water tanks.

Normally, hard water does not interfere with livestock performance; however, hard waters can cause difficulty in the washing of milking equipment and causes water heaters to “lime up.” Contaminates such as iron and sand will clog pipelines. Well water with high iron content may have problems with iron bacteria forming a red, slimy mass that can clog well screens and require periodic treatment with chlorine. Some wells produce considerable amounts of sand. A sand separator should be installed at the beginning of a pipeline in such a case. Sand separators are available through suppliers of trickle irrigation equipment. Sulfur waters are corrosive and have a bad odor.

Rural water is a reliable source but may be too costly for large livestock operations. However, consider connection to the rural source as a backup supply. Backflow prevention valves shall be used to prevent contamination of the rural water supply. In most cases, rural water districts require an air gap because backflow valves are not safe enough.

This article was originally posted by Donald L. Pfost and Charles D. Fulhage, Agricultural Engineering Extension, and Stan Casteel, Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, with the University of Missouri. Read the full article here.

Photo courtesy of the National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa.

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