New Report on Water Quality and Livestock Health

The University of Wyoming's College of Agriculture, in collaboration with two state agencies, has published a report on water quality as it pertains to the health of livestock and wildlife.

"The target audience is anyone with an interest in water quality as it relates to animal health, including veterinarians, livestock producers, wildlife managers, conservationists, regulatory officials, extension educators, and others," said the lead author Merl Raisbeck, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ABVT, a professor in the UW College of Agriculture's Department of Veterinary Sciences.

Funding for the research and subsequent 94-page bulletin, B-1183, "Water Quality for Wyoming Livestock & Wildlife," was provided by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department was also involved in the project.

B-1183 is available on the UW Cooperative Extension Service Web site (link directs to a PDF downloadable file).

The Web site also has information for ordering hardcopies, which are $9 each.

Raisbeck and seven others performed an exhaustive review of scientific literature pertaining to the most common contaminants in Wyoming's water and their potential effects on cattle, horses, domestic sheep, deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. The report targeted domestic livestock and wildlife that rely upon wells, ponds, streams, and other water sources in Wyoming, including water produced by coal-bed methane development.

"The last concerted effort in the United States to summarize the literature regarding water quality for animals was conducted in the early 1970s by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)," Raisbeck said. "That was a good study, well done, but there has been much research conducted around the country since then."

Raisbeck emphasized his team didn't conduct new research for the bulletin but instead examined refereed journals, textbooks, proceedings from conferences, abstracts and theses, notably those published during the past 20 years, citing 663 sources.

"It was our absolutely best effort in compiling all of the relevant information available at this time on toxicants in water," Raisbeck said. "It's the same information others would find if they had a month per toxicant to dig through the literature."

The bulletin reviews literature pertaining to arsenic, barium, fluoride, molybdenum, nitrate/nitrite, pH, selenium, sodium chloride, sulfur, and total dissolved solids. It examines how each is metabolized by livestock and wildlife and at what levels in water they are toxic to animals.

"There is a lot of misinformation on the Web relating to water quality and animals, which has made it difficult to separate truth from fiction," Raisbeck said. "A lot of misinformation has been cited and then recited and recited."

He added, "We believe this report represents a reasonable starting point for evaluating the adequacy of water quality for animals."

Download the report.

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