With winter starting, everyone is thinking about nutrition and how costly it is going to be. However, we need to think about the first nutrient, water. Every animal needs fresh, clean and palatable water to drink. This applies to every animal on the planet, birds, dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats, horses and hogs.
One of the first questions I am always asked is how much water does this species need or should they drink. The rule of thumb, and I quote, "rule of thumb," is one gallon per 100 pounds of body weight. This quantity will apply to all species:  one hundred pounds of birds or per hundred weight of large animals like cattle or horses. So, 100 pounds of birds are going to average drinking one gallon of water per day. A one thousand pound cow or horse is going to average drinking ten gallons of water per day.
Now, the reason I say this is a rule of thumb is that I haven’t seen any animal reading my texts books and it is just an average. I have also seen animals only drinking 70 percent of this total and also a dairy cow drinking an average of 45 gallons in the summer time. This dairy cow must drink 1-1.5 gallons of water to maintain her body per one hundred pounds of body weight and at least 1 gallon for every gallon of milk she is producing. This will apply to all species lactating and/or feeding a baby.
Now without water we run into problems. Dehydration, improper digestion, kidney and liver problems are just some of them. Cattle will slow their digestion and impair their kidneys. Horses will slow digestion and cause an impaction and colic.
Now, in the winter our water is sometimes frozen or ice cold. If the animals cannot get the ice broke and get a drink, then we will have to do it for them. Also, horses are very sensitive to the temperature of water. I have already had one call for a horse with colic from ice cold water. Normally, with some exertion and then drinking ice cold water a horse can colic or just not drinking enough because it was too cold.
The stock tanks we water out of need to be cleaned out and disinfected frequently. This can be done by just emptying and spraying with dilute Clorox water and letting them totally dry. The chlorine smell will leave as it dries and you only need 4 ounces of Clorox or one-half cup to a gallon of water to disinfect. It has been noted that three parts per million of chlorine in water will not back cattle off from drinking. So, after the tank dries and is filled back up with regular water, cattle should not have a problem drinking the water.
Please, remember the No. 1 ingredient for nutrition and life is water.
Dr. Tim O'Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.


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