Don't forget about the water this summer

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Although we have had a cool spring, it won't be long before summer temperatures will arrive and with hot weather, livestock owners need to remember that hotter temperatures means increased consumption of water. Water is something most of us take for granted until we don't have easy access to it any longer. Water is the most important nutrient, but usually the most forgotten one as well, we just don't think about it a lot of times, until it is gone. Water is needed for the regulation of body temperature, growth, reproduction, lactation, digestion, metabolism, excretion, hydrolysis of protein, fat and carbohydrates, regulation of minerals, joint lubrication, nervous system, cushioning, transporting sound and eyesight. Water acts as a solvent for glucose, amino acids, mineral ions, water-soluble vitamins and metabolic waste transported in the body. This is just a partial list of some of the uses that water is needed for not only livestock production, but for humans as well.

Water consumed ad lib plus water consumed from feed intake fills the daily requirement for livestock production. Factors that influence water requirements include; rate and composition of gain, pregnancy status, lactation (pounds/day), activity (grazing vs. confinement), type of diet, feed intake and environmental temperature.

Although, spring growth of forages was a little lacking this spring due to soil moisture levels and temperatures, that early grass still provided an excellent source of water. However, as the growing season progresses and plants mature, moisture content reduces and the water has to come from other sources such as a pond, livestock fountains, a well, spring development, etc. MU Extension has resources to help producers who need to better utilize water on their farms. Visit for more information.

Body growth, fetal growth, lactation, excretion of feces and urine, and evaporation through sweating, breathing and skin, influence water requirements. Changes in temperature influence water intake as well. According to the National Research Council on Beef Cattle (NRC), the water intake of a 400-pound growing heifer or steer increases from approximately 4 gallons per day at 40 degrees F to 9.5 gallons per day when the temperature increases to 90 degrees F. The daily increase in water consumption for lactating beef cows weighing 900 pounds increases from 6.7 gallons per day to 18.2 gallons per day as the temperature increases from 40 degrees F to 90 degrees F. Mature bulls weighing over 1,600 pounds increase their water consumption from 8.7 gallons per day with 40 degrees F weather to almost 20 gallons per day when the temperature hits 90 degrees F.

Water availability is very important for livestock. Restricting water consumption or intake to less than the animals requirement will reduce performance and decrease efficiency.

Don't forget water quality as well, water salinity can be an issue in areas and affect performance if it is a bad enough problem. Young stock such as calves need better quality water than cows, don't make them fight mud or cows to get it. Increases of 50 pounds per head in weaning weight have been reported when water of sufficient quantity and quality is provided. Think about making a "drinking creep" for calves, if your watering system for cows is marginal. Waterborne disease include leptospirosis, foot rot, red nose, bovine virus diarrhea (BVD), TB and mastitis. With high cattle prices it is worth it to spend some money on providing a good quality water source for your livestock.

For more information contact your Livestock Specialist, Wendy Flatt at the MU Extension Office in Howard County at or 660-248-2272.