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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.