Water quality is one of the many factors that go into properly raising livestock, and can be especially important during the hot and dry summer months.
To that end, farmers often need to keep a track of the water their livestock is drinking, since many subsist on groundwater from sloughs.
Maintaining water quality and the health of cattle often needs the help of experts who test the water to check for mineral content.
Saskatchewan Livestock and Feed Extensein Specialist Catherine Lang details what they look at during those tests.
"Here in our office, when you bring in a water sample we're measuring conductivity and conductivity measures water's ability to carry electricity. If you remember way back to your chemistry classes, different minerals carry different charges. Those charges add up together to make ypur conductivity."
"When we measure conductivity, we've seen enough samples here that we're able to make some assumptions based on that number," said Lang, "So sulfate makes up about 50% of the conductivity, and we know that TDS, or total dissolved solids, can account for probably 85-90% of the conductivity number."
Lang tells people that while they may have TDS meters on hand that can be useful, many are calibrated for water not from Saskatchewan and as such will display incorrect results.
For those who want to get their water tested, the ministry of agriculture has set up a free testing solution.
"That's the really awesome partnership that we have with the Roy Romanow lab in Regina," said Lang, "Where you can bring samples into either your local regional ministry office or a Saskatchewan Crop Insurance office. Those samples will be screened with conductivity and if they're testing really low we know they don't need to go to the lab and they'll be safe for livestock."
"If they're testing extremely high, we won't always send those to the lab because we know they're probably going to be toxic, but if they fall within a range that we have established in the office, then we send them off to the lab.
If that analysis ends up in questionable ranges, the office will usually work with the farmers on practices to make that water safer.