BROOKINGS — South Dakota Livestock producers are encouraged to test their water sources as poor quality water is leading to blindness in some herds.

“Livestock water samples from northwestern South Dakota have already indicated high levels of total salts,” said Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

High levels of sulfates in the water have caused polio (polioencephalomalacia) in some herds already this year, with blindness being reported. Poor quality water is not limited to northwestern South Dakota but to all of western South Dakota and possibly portions of eastern South Dakota.

“It is well documented in western South Dakota that water from wells, dams, dugouts and creeks are often high in total salts and especially sulfates regardless whether the water source is small or large or has a lot of water or a little,” Salverson said. “Testing the water is the only way to know.”

Poor water quality is caused by areas having little to no runoff from snow or spring rain and accelerated by hot, dry and windy conditions. Additionally, certain water sources regardless of dry or wet years, are high in total salts.

Water sources that are often assumed to be safe such as spring-fed reservoirs and water that appears to be clear can still be high in salts/sulfates. The visual appearance of water should not be used to determine if the water is good or bad. The only way to know if water is suitable for livestock is through testing.

SDSU Extension is offering an on-site quick test at all SDSU Extension Regional Centers and some SDSU Extension County Offices across South Dakota.

“It is critical that producers be proactive and test their water sources prior to turning livestock into pastures,” Salverson said.

Poor quality water will cause an animal to consume less water, as a result they will consume less forage/feed which leads to weight loss, decreased milk production and lower fertility.

Sporadic cases of polio can be seen when high levels of sulfates are present in the water. Contact your veterinarian to determine your treatment plan if you have any concern of potential losses due to polio. Polio can be successfully treated through the use of thiamine and anti-inflammatory injections if caught early.

“Be proactive and monitor your water and your livestock,” Salverson said. “Just because your neighbor does not have problems doesn’t mean you won’t.”

For additional information or questions, contact Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist, at 605-374-4177 or robin.salverson@sdstate.edu.

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