May 22, 2015 - Do the Minerals in Water Really Matter to Cows?

Friday, May 22, 2015 - The 2001 Dairy NRC called water “the most essential nutrient” and yet many dairymen do not consider it a nutrient and do not account for the actual mineral nutrients that it provides.Cows drinking in a pasture

If we don’t account for the minerals provided by water, we frequently load the diet beyond what the cow requires. This is not only expensive but can lead to salinization of soil where we spread manure and a further increase in mineral content of water.

Most water supplies will provide only a few grams of mineral in a cow’s daily consumption of water. But many water sources provide high levels of minerals that can antagonize the availability of vital trace minerals or even reach toxic levels. For example, Sulfur from water is probably the mineral with the greatest concern because many water samples have enough sulfur, when combined with dietary sulfur, to potentially antagonize the availability of copper and selenium.

The combination of minerals delivered to the cow in water and feed can alter her acid-base status, with implications for rumen function and fresh-cow health.

In the past, many have questioned the bioavailability of minerals provided by water. Regardless of the source, dietary or water, minerals are the same electrochemically. When they get into the aqueous environment of the rumen and digestive tract of the cow, they are all going to behave in the same ways in terms of solubility, ionic interactions and absorption.

Take a look at your water tanks.  If you wouldn’t drink the water, perhaps it’s time to get on a regular program to clean it up so that your cows have enticing access to the most essential nutrient.

ABC Comment:  Mineral levels in water is a variable that is difficult to accurately include in computer generated rations. The best way to avoid over-supplementation of minerals is to pull all mineral pre-mixes out of the ration and provide ABC’s individual, free-choice cafeteria-style minerals and trace minerals for your animals.  You will be surprised at the benefits of having your cow’s wisdom included in your management decisions.

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