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    Keep an eye on stock water

    Stock trough320by Kim Deans – Northern Tablelands LLS Farm Planning Officer

    There has been useful rain on the Northern Tablelands in the last couple of days although it hasn’t been enough in most places to run much water. Ensuring good quality water for livestock is an ongoing part of managing livestock at all times but becomes particularly relevant when water supplies are limited in dry times. 

    Water is one of the most important factors in livestock production.  If water quality is poor, livestock may drink less than they need or stop drinking altogether.  When they drink less they eat less, lose condition and if they are lactating, milk production can be reduced.  Ensuring livestock have access to good quality water when feeding helps you get the most out of the investment in fodder and keeps animals in better health. 

    Factors that contribute to poor water quality:

    • Contamination from dust, feed, manures, pollutants. If you did receive run-off, be mindful that these pollutants may affect water quality in dams.
    • Algal growth
    • Acidity
    • Salinity

    Clean troughs regularly, position troughs away from feeding areas to avoid contamination and correct problems with salt and pH to maintain water quality.   If reliant upon dam water consider restricting stock access to dams to minimise contamination and prevent livestock from getting bogged.  Water can be piped from the dam into a trough to maintain water quality.  As water supplies evaporate concentrations of salt and contaminants can increase so water of marginal quality may become unsatisfactory. 

    The diet of livestock has a large influence on their water requirements.  During drought periods water requirements of livestock increase as they are forced to select more fibrous and less digestible feed.  Feeding salt or salt based lick blocks during dry periods also increase livestock water requirements.  Water requirements are also impacted by the size of animals, the stage of production, activity levels and weather conditions. 

    When assessing farm water supplies for forward planning, the consumption per head per day in litres of the following livestock classes can be a used as a general guide to livestock water requirements: 

    • Weaner sheep             2 - 4 litres
    • Adult dry sheep           2 - 6 litres
    • Ewes with lambs         4 - 10 litres
    • Lactating cows            40 - 100 litres
    • Young stock                25 - 50 litres
    • Dry stock                     35 - 80 litres
    • Horses                        40 - 50 litres

    Useful links for more detailed information on stock water requirements and planning:

    www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/beef-cattle/feed/water-requirements-sheep-cattle

    www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/beef-cattle/feed/stockwater-limited-resource

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