For livestock producers having access to a good, clean water supply is key.

Water quality can affect the feed intake, the absorption of nutrients, and overall productivity of animals.

Livestock and Feed Extension specialist Alicia Sopatyk  encourages producers to get their water tested, adding one of the most common problems tends to be high sulfates.

"There are lots of parameters to be testing for that can cause problems, but the high sulfates can cause a toxicity scenario themselves depending on the level. You can get extreme toxicity causing blindness, polio and death on that subclinical level, secondary copper deficiency and things like that all affect our productivity and our bottom line."

Stats show that in the last three years about half of all provincial water samples tested had sulphate levels that were totally safe. 

However, about 40 percent of the samples fell into the cautionary category, and just under 10 percent were considered unsuitable. 

The majority of the unsuitable samples were found in the southern or central regions of the province.

Sopatyk reminding producers that they should be testing all water sources from dugouts to well and they should continue that testing throughout the grazing season as conditions can change depending on environmental conditions.

"You know, you really can't manage what you don't measure, and without those visual symptoms, we don't know. That doesn't mean that we need to stick our head in the sand and not pay attention to them, because it is good to know. If you know more, you are able to deal with it a lot better. We also have to look at times of year. So in the summertime evaporation, animals drinking depending on your rain or a runoff recharge going into the mineral levels can become even more concentrated and unsuitable."

She notes there are ways to deal with sub-par water quality from hauling water, to digging a new well or dugout, mineral supplementation and pasture rotations.

Producers looking for more information on water testing should reach out to their provincial agriculture department.

Sopatyk was one of the presenters during the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference this week.