Livestock water advice for farmers

How much water is left in your dam and how much longer will your supply for your livestock last? These are the crucial questions farmers are being urged to assess as the dry conditions on the north coast continue and the forecast is for a hot, dry summer season.

A priority for producers’ during dry times should be to ensure that there are adequate amounts of good quality water available to stock to reduce the risk of decreased productivity and compromising livestock health. During dry times, stock water requirements increase dramatically with high temperatures and on high dry matter feed, such as dry standing pasture or hay.

Jocelyn Todd, District Veterinarian with North Coast Local Land Services, said, “When water supplies dry out during dry times, cattle can become bogged attempting to access water, particularly if they are poor in condition.

“Farmers need to check dams and creeks for signs of bogging where cattle have been accessing water and if bogging is beginning to exceed 30cm deep, calves or even adult cows, are very likely to get bogged, especially those in low body condition.

“Removing a bogged adult cow can often require a tractor or heavy earthmoving machinery but leaving cattle bogged is unacceptable under animal welfare regulations, so prevention really is the only option.” Jocelyn said.

Water quality is important to ensure cattle can safely consume their daily requirements and they should be monitored closely during drought. As water levels fall, the quality can decline and cause reductions in water intake, particularly from extremes of pH and salinity.

In some coastal areas, acid sulphate is an issue and surface water can be too acidic for cattle. During droughts water in tidal rivers may become too saline for cattle to drink, even at low tide, due to low river flows. Water in dams and creeks that stop flowing can also be toxic from blue green algae.

Jocelyn continued, “Purchasing and carting water from an off-farm source is both time consuming and costly and there are already reports of scarcity of water to buy in parts of the region.

“If you are faced with carting water, seriously consider reducing numbers or selling the entire herd as often the labour and time commitment to do this adds a hidden cost on top of the water purchase cost.

“Provision of water, including during droughts, is a legal obligation under animal welfare legislation and if you cannot provide your livestock with water, then you will need to make the decision to either sell your stock or send stock on agistment.”

There are a range of resources available by visiting the Local Land Services website or you can call 1300 795 299 and ask to speak to one of the North Coast Local Land Services team for advice.

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