If dairy cattle are watered from a well with high fluoride content in the water, is there a risk of their milk having dangerously high fluoride content?
My parents works with a Maasai tribe in Tanzania. The tribe has dug a well for water, but the fluoride level is to high for it to be safely used for drinking water. The Maasai would like to use the well to water their herds of cattle, but there is concern about how much of the fluoride will be carried into the milk, which is drunk by the tribe.
Anyone out there that has knowledge about this?
I’m thinking that they’re going to need an ag science water-and-milk-testing lab.
There is such a thing as fluoridated milk, for communities who don’t have a water supply to fluoridate, so fluoride in milk isn’t necessarily a Bad Thing, but you need to know exactly how much fluoride is in there.
In this cited study, the levels of fluoride in the milk were, variously, 2.5 or 7.5 mg/l. So, next, you’d need a lab test to determine how much fluoride is in the well water, in order to make an educated guess as to how much would be making its way into the cows. There are some numbers here on fluoride levels in dairy cattle which make my head hurt, but maybe a Tanzanian ag science person can make sense of it.
I did notice in passing that too much fluoride is bad for cows as well as people–to answer the OP’s first question, the biggest danger to cows from drinking highly fluoridated water is not to the milk, but to the cow’s own personal health–so if it was me, and I had an Extension Service lab available, I’d have the water tested before I started letting my cows drink it. Your parents’ Third World mileage may vary.
And if their well has too much fluoride for people to drink it, I’d guess that it’s not good for cows either, but it’s possible that a 1200 pound cow can ingest a higher concentration of fluoride than a person can, I dunno. Again, need to consult an expert.
So it looks to me like your folks need to get some sort of ag science water-testing person in on this at their end. I found the Tanzania Dairy Board with contact information at the end (PDF file), and they do have a new 2004 Dairy Industry Act (PDF file), so there must be ag science water-testing people knowledgeable about fluoride around there somewhere.