Unchecked water lines may prove harmful
Mary K. Foy, director of technical services for Proxy-Clean Products, discussed problems that arise with high mineral levels in water and ways to address them during a recent “Grower Lunch Break” virtual meeting held by the Extension services in Maryland and Delaware and the Delmarva Chicken Association.
Foy said minerals can come from underground reservoirs or porous geological formations with underground water movement, and in the case of wells less than 100 feet deep, rainwater can introduce minerals through leaching.
If mineral levels are in question, Foy said tests are relatively inexpensive and easy.
Once test results come back, it’s important to compare them to measurable limits in poultry production developed by the University of Arkansas and available through Extension to know the scope of the problem.
Untreated over time, excessive minerals in the water system can build up, leading to inefficient or broken equipment, negative effects on bird health and provide food and safe harbor for some bacteria to withstand water treatment measures.
Observing bird activity can inform which mineral may be a problem, Foy said. Birds with excessively wet droppings may be getting too much magnesium, sodium, chloride or sulfur. Decreased feed and water consumption could mean high levels of zinc, which gives water an astringent taste or iron or copper which makes the water taste bitter.
Poor bird growth, weak bones and intestinal irritation could denote too excessive nitrates, lead or copper.
Dissolved iron can be tough to diagnose as it doesn’t show visibly in water and will still build up on pipes and equipment.
“Just because it’s not orange, doesn’t mean you don’t have iron in the water,” Foy said. “It is a great source of food for bacteria and notoriously E. coli loves iron.”
Shallow well use during drought periods can bring up heavy minerals that settled on the bottom of the water source.
Shallow wells often have more turbidity or cloudiness from suspended particles, which can tie up chemicals used for water treatment and can settle into drinkers, jamming them open or shut.
Silica is an issue Foy said she’s seen pop up on Delmarva when a drop in temperature in concert with a drop in water pH causes silica to drop out of solution leading to build up and clogged drinkers.
The mineral build-up, or scale, on equipment, is a clear indication of a problem, and notable presents itself in clogged drinkers.
“If it’s sealing over those drinkers, it is building inside those water lines,” Foy said, adding “You’ve really got to stay on top of those drinker lights but also those underground lines too.”
If mineral levels are an issue in the water system, Foy said to determine if increased filtration is warranted by checking the system’s filter after about two weeks of use. It may need to be changed more frequently or it may show the system to be inadequate.
Chemical treatment is an option many growers use where minerals are oxidized, essentially making the mineral molecules larger and easier caught through filtration. Foy said using a hydrogen peroxide or chlorine product works well but also puts more material into the filter, and it will need changed or cleaned more often.
Treatment with acids keep minerals in solution to minimize build up but Foy said acid use is only effective on a select group of minerals and is not recommended for continuous use or in treating high mineral levels.
“This one is more of a temporary fix or one of those where you just have a little bit of minerals in your system and you can add acid to it to keep it in solution,” Foy said.
She added continuous use with a chloride or chlorine-based acid can damage equipment, especially rubber components and manufacturers have voided product warranties under repeated acid use.
To descale water lines, Foy said after flushing the lines for organics, a phosphoric acid product is more equipment friendly and should be used to bring the pH down to below 4 for 24 hours, with drinkers triggered at the start of that period.
After 24 hours, Foy said flush all lines with fresh water and trigger drinkers again.
The next Grower Lunch Break with Extension is set for March 3 at noon, focusing on insect control. A link for online registration is available at https://extension.umd.edu/poultry.
Future dates for lunch breaks are April 7, May 5, May 19, June 2 and June 9.