Yes, Water is an Essential Nutrient
(Especially in the Summer)

Dr. Ronald L. Boman
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

    The importance of adequate clean drinking water should not be overlooked at any time, but it is extremely important during the heat of the summer months. Water is the medium in which all chemical reactions in the body take place. Blood, which contains 80 percent water, is vital in oxygen and carbon dioxide transport to and from the tissues, as well as being the life support system for the body. Since water has a high specific heat, it is ideally suited as a temperature buffering system for the body. A restriction of water intake lowers feed intake. Animals may lose nearly all the fat and about one-half the protein of the body and still survive, but a loss of about one-tenth of the water content of the body results in death. Dairy cattle need a continuous supply of water for maximum efficiency. WHAT ABOUT YOUR DAIRY ANIMALS? ARE THEY ABLE TO CONSUME ENOUGH WATER WHEN THEY NEED AND WANT IT?

    All too often in the summer months I see cows standing in line waiting to get a drink of water. Also, algae grow faster in hot weather, and too often the water in the watering troughs is not clean and fresh. Here are a few reminders concerning drinking water management:

  1. Cows are usually thirsty when they leave the milking parlor. Top dairy managers have ample water and watering space available for cows to have free access to all they want to drink at this time.

  2. In the free stall barns and open lots we want to have enough watering devices so that cows can freely access water whenever they get the urge. Large open watering troughs with ample reserves that allow more than one cow to drink at a time are especially recommended during the heat of the summer. LACTATING COWS WILL GO TO THE WATERING TROUGH TO DRINK AN AVERAGE OF TEN (10) TIMES IN A 24-HOUR PERIOD.

  3. Adequate water pressure to refill the watering trough is a must, especially if the volume of the watering trough is reduced. Remember that lactating cows need from 2 to 4 lbs of water for each lb of milk they produce, and the requirement goes up as temperatures increase.

  4. Heifers and dry cows also need to have free access to abundant amounts of water. The important thing is to make sure that they can get a drink anytime they want without having to stand in line or wait for a watering trough to fill up.

  5. Calves need drinking water in addition to what is added to milk replacer all year. Starter intake is significantly increased if they have access to water. This is especially true in the heat of the summer.