Published on 06/14/16

Cattle drinking from farm ponds can hurt livestock, fish and shoreline

By Frank M. Watson

Many Georgia farmers use their fish ponds as water sources for livestock. A pond located in a pasture is a convenient and dependable source of water for stock, but letting cattle have free access to a pond is not the best decision for the animals, the pond or the fish that live there.

From the standpoint of animal health, diseases are spread throughout the herd when animals come into contact with urine and/or feces discharged from infected animals. Since farm animals defecate in or around ponds, infection can spread rapidly through the contaminated drinking water.

Allowing livestock free access to a pond also interferes with its fish production. Livestock erode the dam and shoreline area by wading into the pond, literally muddying the pond water.

Muddy pond water can interfere with fish reproduction and slow fish growth, and ponds where livestock wade tend to remain muddy throughout the year. Muddy ponds enriched with manure are more likely to have a fish kill from summertime oxygen depletion. To prevent these problems, farmers should install a fence to keep livestock away from ponds.

Water should be supplied to livestock through a tank equipped with a float control and located below the dam. Using this method, the water is cleaner, the livestock do not damage the dam and the pond can be more easily managed.

Some Georgia farmers are eligible for cost share dollars to help pay for a system like this. Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service’s state conservation office at (706) 546-2272 for more information on cost share assistance. For more on how to provide cattle with a quality water supply, see University of Georgia Cooperative Extension publication SB 56 at

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.

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