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Supplying Water Needs for Beef Cattle
Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
Published: June 10, 2022

Dr. Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist, indicates in the magazine the Bovine Veterinarian that groundwater sources are drying up. A lack of water could force cattle to drink water they would not normally drink. Cattle can only survive a few days without water. The amount of water needed per cow depends on water quality, time of day, current weather, moisture content of feed, body weight of the animal, and stage of production.

Since water intake and feed intake are closely related, decreased water intake also decreases the intake of other nutrients. A study done in the southeastern United States denied water to cattle for 48 hours prior to shipment to the Texas panhandle. The dehydration that developed decreased the performance of the calves for two weeks after arriving at the feedlot. This study showed even short periods of water restriction can have effects beyond the time of restriction.

Common water problems include fecal and bacterial contamination, nitrates, hardness, salinity, and total dissolved solids. Cattle consuming water with increased salt or total solids greater than 10,000 parts per million have reduced growth and increased water consumption so that urinary output can expel the increased salt.

In parts per million, nitrites should not exceed 33, nitrates 45, sulfates 300, and total solids should not exceed 1000 ppm. For this reason, all livestock water should be sampled and tested, especially in a drought situation. Peak water demands on heavy cattle in a feedlot during the summer can exceed 20 gallons of water per day. A 550-pound grazing calf consumes up to 12 gallons every day.

It’s important that you look at the quality and quantity of water you have available to avoid water problems during this period of drought.

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