Lab tests confirm that an extremely high sulphate concentration in dugout water killed about 200 cows and calves at a community pasture near Chaplin last week.
The sulphate concentration in the water was over 24,000 milligrams a litre. Concentrations of only 1000 milligrams per litre can cause neurological trauma in cattle.
The amount of total dissolved solids in the water was also extremely high.
The other 240 cows and calves were moved to another pasture with a safe and secure water source. A handful of those animals have since died, but the others are recovering.
The entire news release from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture is below:
JULY 13 UPDATE -- SHAMROCK CATTLE MORTALITY
Laboratory testing has been completed on water from the dugout used by approximately 200 cattle that died on a pasture operated by Shamrock Grazing Ltd. late last week. The water testing, as well as testing of affected animals, confirms that poor quality water, hot weather and dehydration are major factors in this case.
Sulphate concentration in the water was extremely high, at over 24,000 milligram/litre. Concentrations over 1,000 mg/litre can cause neurological trauma (polioencephalomalacia) in cattle, with death frequently occurring at concentrations greater than 7,000 mg/litre.
Total dissolved solids, or TDS (the combined content of all substances contained in a liquid) was 33,400 milligram/litre, which is also extremely high. Water with TDS over 5,000 milligram/litre is not recommended for lactating or pregnant cattle, while water with TDS greater than 7,000 milligram/litre should not be used for cattle at all.
The Ministry of Agriculture is assisting the corporation with ongoing testing of several water sources in the immediate area.
A handful of deaths occurred among the remaining living 240 cow/calf pairs after the initial discovery. The herd has been moved to a different pasture that has a safe and secure water source, with a small select number of distressed animals under veterinarian care. The danger period for further mortality among the impacted animals is now believed to be small, although severely-affected animals that are not responding well to treatment may not survive. The Ministry has also provided guidance and expertise to the corporation and the rancher shareholders on the burial of the carcasses.
Producers are again reminded that cattle need be checked regularly, as often as possible in hot and dry conditions, and to ensure the quality and quantity of their livestock water sources. If producers have any questions regarding livestock water requirements, they are encouraged to contact their local Ministry of Agriculture Regional Office or the Agricultural Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.
The Province recognizes this has been a difficult period for the cattle owners of Shamrock Grazing Limited and is extending its cooperation as needed to move forward. The investigation of this incident continues in cooperation with the corporation. The pasture, located south of Chaplin, spans approximately 23,700 acres and includes 33 cattle owners.