North Dakota Vetrinary Diagnostic Lab

Poor livestock water quality in some areas of North Dakota

June 22, 2017

2017 is another year of challenging water quality in North Dakota. The laboratory analyzes livestock water samples from stock ponds and smaller ponds and lakes, and has found some very poor water due to increased salts and sulfates and/or blooms of harmful blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Increased concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) or salinity at over 6,000 to 7,000 mg/L (ppm) are considered harmful to livestock and water sulfate concentrations over 2,000 to 3,000 + mg/L can be toxic to lethal in livestock. High water sulfate concentrations can be associated with diarrhea, poor production and possibly poor reproduction, neurological signs of blindness and ‘polio’, and death.

Harmful blue-green algal blooms can produce toxins that cause massive liver damage or fast-acting neurotoxins causing rapid death. Some of the cyanobacterial toxins can remain in algal mats for weeks and cause harm to livestock at a later date; algal blooms can also reoccur in water sources. We suggest frequent monitoring of livestock water sources and testing of suspect water sources – particularly surface water prior to placing water on a potable water source. Take the water sample where livestock are drinking.

Our lab performs water quality analysis (TDS, sulfates, nitrates, pH) for $25 per sample, plus a $10 accession fee.

Collect a minimum of 50 mL of the sample (250 mL preferred) in a plastic container – for example, if collecting in a plastic bottled water container, rinse out container in the sample water, fill it up, and seal tightly. Label sample with an ID using a black marker. Wrap the top with tape to prevent leaking. Place the water in a sealed plastic bag. Collect the sample early in the week and send in before Friday so no weekend shipment hold up. The sample should be less than 48-72 hours old. See Water Collection and Submission Guide for additional information.

Typical turnaround time is 24-48 hours for report.

NOTE: If time is a factor, send sample by courier overnight. If the water is received by the laboratory before 10 to 10:30 AM we generally can send the report out by 5 PM. The time delay is generally shipment

Blue-Green algae analysis: Ship sample immediately by next day delivery on an ice pack – do not freeze or leave on the dash of your vehicle. $20 per sample, plus a $10 accession fee.

Michelle Mostrom, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT

North Dakota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Photo credit: NDSU Extention Service.