Water sources on the prairie largely depend on spring runoff to fill dugouts. During the heat of summer these dugouts can rapidly be depleted as cattle drink and water is evaporated. Each year is different in how quickly various water sources change. It can happen as quickly as overnight, particularly if large numbers of cattle are drinking.
This year in addition to monitoring water quantity, water quality has also become a concern. The first hint of this on our place was going to check a group of cows that had two water sources and finding them all around a single watering system on one side of the field. Two water sources helps spread the cows more evenly across the pasture for grazing, but also reduces the pressure of so many animals at one water source. The second issue was a neighbour reporting that heifers were standing at the fence, as if they were looking to be moved, but they were in a field with lots of water and grass left.
Hence, we have tested water from all our dugouts and creeks for the first time in many years. We don’t normally test all our water sources, but given the concerns this year are doing a full round of tests. You cannot know by looking at a water source if that water has changed. This has helped us identify where there is good water where the cows can be moved to and which water sources have high levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Pastures with water sources high in TDS will need water hauled to them.
The cattle on pasture have needed more frequent checking due to the heat and concerns about water quality, and during one of these checks Lynn noticed many frogs at one of the dugouts. These Northern Leopard Frogs which are of “Special Concern” as listed by COSEWIC in the prairie area.
The Northern Leopard Frog uses several distinct habitat types to meet its needs throughout the year. Separate sites are generally used for overwintering, breeding and foraging, and contiguity between these habitats is necessary for the species’ survival. Overwintering sites are well-oxygenated bodies of water that do not freeze to the bottom. Thus streams, creeks, rivers, spillways below dams, and deep lakes and ponds may all provide appropriate overwintering conditions. Breeding occurs in pools, ponds, marshes and lakes, and may occasionally occur in slow-moving streams and creeks. The tadpoles also use these types of streams. A typical breeding pond is 30 to 60 m in diameter and 1.5 to 2.0 m deep; it is located in an open area with abundant vegetation and no fish. In the summer, the frogs are found in a wide variety of habitats, particularly moist upland meadows and native prairie; riparian areas and ponds facilitate dispersal and provide additional corridors for movement between habitats. Northern Leopard Frogs seem to prefer areas where the vegetation is no more than 30 cm tall and is relatively close to water.