Two hundred forty single-source, crossbred steers (304 kg) were used to evaluate the effects of various water sulfate concentrations on performance, water intake, and carcass characteristics of feedlot steers. Cattle were stratified by weight and assigned within weight blocks to five water treatments. Averaged over time, actual water sulfate concentrations (± SEM) were 136.1 (± 6.3), 291.2 (± 15.3), 582.6 (± 16.9), 1,219.2 (± 23.7), and 2,360.4 (± 68.2) mg/L, respectively. Weather-related data were recorded. Increasing water sulfate concentration resulted in linear decreases in ADG (P < 0.01) and gain:feed ratio (P < 0.01) and a quadratic effect on water intake (P = 0.02) and tended to quadratically increase then decrease DMI (P = 0.13). Sulfate × period interactions were evident for DMI (P = 0.01), ADG (P < 0.01), and feed efficiency (P < 0.01). Time had quadratic effects on DMI, water intake, ADG, and feed efficiency (P < 0.01 for all models). Increasing water sulfate concentration resulted in linear decreases in final weight, hot carcass weight, and dressing percentage, a linear increase in longissimus muscle area, and a quadratic effect on fat thickness over the 12th rib and predicted yield grade (P < 0.05 for all dependent variables). Mean daily temperature explained 25.7% of the observed variation in water intake. Other factors that explained a significant (P < 0.01) amount of variation in water intake were BW, DMI, water sulfate concentration, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity. High water sulfate concentrations had a significant and deleterious effect on performance and carcass characteristics of feedlot steers. Increasing the sulfate concentration in water may have resulted in a functional water restriction early in the trial when ambient temperatures were greatest. However, toward the latter stages of the trial, cattle supplied higher-sulfate water had higher ADG and FE. These improvements later in the trial may represent compensatory gain associated with decreased ambient temperature and water requirements. Averaged over time, a water sulfate concentration of greater than 583 mg/L, equivalent to 0.22% of the diet, decreased feedlot performance.
- Feed intake
- Water intake