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2017-148: Dugout management for improved water quality

Researcher: Kerri Finlay

Funding: $45,043

Could farms and ranches construct and better manage their dugouts to limit blue-green algae (cynobacteria), toxins, salinity, sulfates and nitrates? As cattle have been shown to increase their weights and body condition through better water, and as there have been significant herd health problems even leading to death in the past year alone, these improvements could greatly improve your herd health. Samples from dugouts throughout Saskatchewan will evaluate the relationship between dugout characteristics and water quality. The researchers will report their findings to cattle producers after their research is complete in 2019.


Kerri Finlay and her research group sampled 101 dugouts in August 2017 and 2019, as well as 20 dugouts in 2018 to note the algal growth, (in particular blue-green algae), nitrates, total dissolved solids, and sulfates. 

While algal growth was very high in dugouts and blue-green algae were present in over half of the sties, blue-green algae toxin production was generally acceptable across the province. 
Sulfates were noted as a concern as it was frequently above recommended limits for cattle exposure in 20-30% of the sites. 

While many would guess that water quality was worse in dry years, others might be surprised that water quality measurements did not differ based on geographical regions - problems were consistent throughout the province. 

Further research is ongoing to determine how dugout location, relative to soil type or groundwater input might impact sulfate concentrations in water. 

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