One of the lesser understood complexities of adopting water supplementation as an alternative method for supplementing livestock, is understanding the importance and relevance of the water quality that is to have a soluble feed additive dosed into it.
It is common knowledge that the pH of any substance including bore water refers to the acid/base level of the substance. However, “total alkalinity” is a measurement of the concentration of the dissolved carbonate, bicarbonate and hydroxide which contributes to the total ‘hardness’ of the water. Therefore, total alkalinity is not actually a measurement of the acid/base level, rather it is a measurement of a substance’s ability to withstand changes in its pH. You might be thinking, how does this relate to livestock nutrition? Feeding urea through the water is very economical. At current prices, water medication costs on average 8-10 cents per head per day to feed urea to livestock at the correct dose according to body weight. However, there is a risk of directly injecting a urea source into highly alkaline water sources, like the bore water we see all through Northern Australia.
While urea will always eventually decay into ammonia when it is dissolved in water, this process will occur very rapidly in a water source, that has “high alkalinity” such as artesian bore water. This not only results in ammonia being lost to the atmosphere before it can be consumed by livestock at the trough, but in extreme cases, can contribute to a significantly reduced water intake by cattle due to the pungent smell of ammonia gas “blowing off” from the trough.
Studies have shown that 20% of the urea can be lost to the atmosphere in a relatively short period. To combat the loss of urea, a buffering agent such as an acid should be added to the water without changing the concentration of available H+ ions (i.e. without changing the pH). DIT Technologies patented use of urea phosphate, has proven to the best compound to stabilise urea in water supplementation. The other added benefit of urea phosphate is that it also provides an additional source of nitrogen and phosphorous for nutrition purposes, is easy to dissolve, safe to use and cost effective. The urea molecule is bonded with the phosphorous molecule so is more stable than urea alone.