UACES Facebook Little effort that goes a long way: Keeping stock tanks clean means healthier cattle, higher productivity
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Little effort that goes a long way: Keeping stock tanks clean means healthier cattle, higher productivity

Fast Facts:

  • Clean stock tanks is a requirement for healthier livestock
  • Algae accumulation inside the tanks can poison cattle
  • Cattle are sensitive to the taste of water; poorly tasting water affects forage intake
  • Warm summer and high solar radiation can cause problem

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas cattle farmers are asked to keep their stock tanks clean, especially in the summer. Algae, among other contaminants, can become problem when mixed with what the cattle drink.

“Clean stock tanks for providing clean water is a requirement for raising livestock and maintaining healthy herds,” said Dirk Philipp, an assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture “especially during the hot summer months.”

Water is essential, regardless of the cow’s age or whether it’s dairy or beef. One adult cow normally consumes 15-30 gallons of water each day.

“Cattle are sensitive to poorly tasting water and this will affect forage intake, especially when hay is fed,” Philipp said.

When not properly cleaned, contaminants such as algae, viruses, parasites, and bacteria, may accumulate inside these water containers.

So, what can we do to prevent cattle from losing their appetite or possibly being poisoned?

Control, check, clean, cover

Tips from researchers with the Division of Agriculture include control, check, clean, and cover.

A clogged overflows caused by algae can cause toxins, Philipp said. Controlling the inlets and outlets on a regular basis is very important.

Contaminants or foreign objects need to be checked since some may pose some damage to the tank or risk cattle’s health. Leaf litter, traces of urine or feces can promote algal growth. Checking the water’s pH, salinity and other elements are also important; water’s pH needs to be around neutral, while salinity and other elements need to be below the recommended limits.

When algae is spotted, take immediate action. Thorough tank cleaning requires adding household bleach at one part for 32 parts of water, letting it sit for 15 minutes and draining as well as scrubbing the tank wall. While it’s being cleaned, it is best to keep livestock away from the tank for around 30 minutes.

In addition to cleaning regularly, adding about two ounces of chlorine to 50 gallons of water every week can keep algae to grow inside the tank.

Although household bleach, chlorine, and products containing copper sulfate can be used to disinfect tanks and clean algae, some animals may be less tolerant for a particular substance. Sheep, for example, are less tolerant for copper and copper buildup in their bodies may lead to toxicity, Philipp said.

To avoid high solar radiation in warm summers, researchers suggest tanks to be covered temporarily or kept in shady areas.

For more information about crop production and agricultural economics, visit or contact your county extension office.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

By Kezia Nanda
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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