Producers checking water for toxins

Cattle in North Dakota
Cattle in North Dakota(KFYR)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 3:55 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The lack of rain is enough of a problem for North Dakota’s producers. But now the lack of water is impacting what little water is already here.

Agriculture leaders are pushing the need for testing water to make sure it’s safe for livestock.

Water is just like air, in that it needs to be cleared or filtered in order for it to be safe for use. But when there’s no new water going in a stream or pond, those toxins continue to build and concentrate.

It’s that concentration of toxins that’s becoming the focus for farmers and ranchers statewide. For ranchers and cattle, it’s just a bad situation getting worse. Dams and reservoirs are drying up during the hottest parts of the year.

”Even though in some places it looks green, the grass is so dry and so brittle that actually as the cows walk on the pasture, they probably break off more and ruin more than they actually eat,” said Morton County Rancher Doug Hille.

And now it’s no longer a problem with quantity, but also quality. Producers are testing their water for salts and sulfates.

If the levels are high enough, it can be deadly to livestock. To protect them, extension agents have been testing the water.

”There really hasn’t been a big push in previous years about livestock water. And this year, just because of the lack of moisture, a lot of producers are saying poor quality water and they’re realizing this isn’t good and we should do something about it,” said Morton County Extension Agent Renae Gress.

Many of these compounds are naturally occurring, meaning it’s only more rain that can bring down the chemical levels.

Gress said at this point, it would take a lot of rain to turn the tide for many water sources.

Despite a recent test saying the water was safe, Hille decided to switch his plans for his cows.

“Just by looking at it, I just don’t feel good about it. I’m charged with taking care of livestock, and I want to take care of them the best I can,” said Hille.

Morton County alone has conducted around 40 tests, and more than a dozen have been considered potentially toxic. Luckily, no deaths have been reported so far.

Some ranchers are having to bring in 1,000 tanks and pipes to connect other water sources to where the livestock are.

Hille said he needs a mile’s worth for his land.

He added he’s done this before, but costs him thousands.

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