Closer monitoring of cattle water intake urged

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 20, 2007
by WLJ
27, 2005

As the official start of summer hit last week, ruminant nutrition specialists reiterated that ranchers need to monitor their animals= water intake and adjust their well output or other water-availability levels accordingly.
The minimum requirement of cattle for water is a reflection of that needed for body growth, for fetal growth or lactation, and for replacing fluids lost through excretion in urine, feces, or sweat or by evaporation from the lungs or skin. When temperatures start to hit 65-70, those minimum requirements increase significantly and on a rapid basis.
According to past water intake studies, researchers have indicated that nursing cows drink between 17-19 gallons of water between May and early September, when temperatures are normally at their hottest. During the first quarter and last quarter of the year, those same animals historically consumer between 11-13 gallons of water, on average.
The increased intake is not only because of fluids being lost associated with evaporation through the skin and lungs, but because of mother cows needing extra water to promote adequate milk production for their calves.
ACalves will start drinking water when they are a few months old, however, they still rely mostly on the milk produced by mom,@ said Randy Nieswander, cattle nutrition specialist, Southern High Plains Livestock Consultants, Liberal, KS. A Milk is both the basis of nutrition and hydration for calves. The more water that is taken in by mom, the better off calves will be.@
In addition, research from the University of Nebraska has indicated that mother cows reach their peak milk production period three to four months after parturition, which can happen either at the time a calf is born or a few days prior.
As far as bulls are concerned, summer water requirements range between 17-20 gallons, compared to 10-13 gallons the rest of the year. Under normal winter calving situations, bulls are turned out for breeding in June and July, which means they are walking and A working@ a lot more during hot temperatures than they are the rest of the year. As a result they need more water.
AWater is a key component to a bull= s recuperative abilities, particularly during a hot weather breeding season,@ said Nieswander. A In addition, the quality and viability of sperm is improved because of increased water intake.@
Breeding stock aren= t the only cattle that need to have increased water intake during the summer. In fact, heavier weights of feedlot cattle are said to have the most need for water during extremely hot temperatures.
Cattle weighing 1,000 pounds or more in a feedlot setting are said to require 20 gallons or more of water in the summer, particularly when temperatures get 85 degrees (Fahrenheit) or hotter. In other times of the year, water intake can range widely, usually between 9-14 gallons. In instances where, temperatures get above 95 degrees, water intake can be up to 25 gallons, sources said.
According to Nieswander, confinement feeding situations result in cattle feeling like temperatures are 8-12 degrees hotter than the thermometer indicates.
ACattle are so closely penned together and shade is usually minimal in feedlots. That means cattle body temperatures get a lot hotter than the temperature actually is, particularly if they are black,@ he said. A That extra heat needs to be combatted, and the only way they can do that is by drinking water and keeping their core temperature down.@
Stocker cattle on grass and lighter weight cattle in feedlots usually drink 13-15 gallons of water during hot summer months, compared to 9-12 gallons the rest of the year. In areas where shade is more prevalent, and temperatures stay mostly A moderate,@ water requirements can remain around 10 gallons per day.
Producers with any type of cattle on pasture or grass also need to take into account that water intake will need to be increased if salt or mintrate blocks are freely available to cattle. In situations where salt and supplement intake is more monitored, water intake won= t vary as much. C
Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor


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