“Water is essential for all livestock, and producers should plan for an adequate supply of clean water when designing any type of livestock enterprise,” said Jodie Pennington, small ruminant specialist at Lincoln University.
Dirty, stagnant water can lead to inadequate water consumption, which will reduce feed and forage intake and compromise livestock performance, Pennington added.
The amount of water required per animal depends on the physiological stage of the animal and the climate. “Lactating animals require more water, and the amount of water required increases as environmental temperature increases,” Pennington said.
For example, a lactating cow weighing 1,000 pounds could require as much as 45 gallons of water a day, Pennington said.
Daily water consumption of 150 pound ewes will vary from 0.75 to 1.5 gallons depending on climate type and stage of gestation.
As you increase weight, the amount of water needed also increases, Pennington said. “The same holds true for temperature; as temperatures increase, so does water intake.”
Sheep and meat goats require about 20 percent and 15 percent of the beef cattle requirement. Dairy goats follow the dairy cow requirements, which are much greater, especially for high producing animals.
“Water availability should be closely monitored because a deficiency in water will result in death much faster than a deficiency of any other nutrient,” Pennington added.
“It is very important for producers to keep a close eye on water troughs to make sure they are working properly,” said Dr. Jason Cater, assistant professor and extension veterinarian for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
“If cattle do not consume adequate amounts of fresh water a condition known as salt toxicity can occur,” Carter added. “Many times this condition is fatal for affected animals. Also in times of drought producers need to monitor ponds or streams for water quality. Should water sources become too stagnant livestock will not consume adequate amounts of water which if nothing else will affect production and weight gain.”
Pennington added that if the water source is from a pond or creek, a waterer is usually recommended but is not always available. If the water source is a bucket or tank without free flow of water, water should be changed at least once per day and preferably twice per day in hot weather.
“If the area gets very muddy around a water source, then you need to move the waterer or put gravel or rock around the water source to decrease the chances of foot rot and other health problems.”
Water requirements increase as dry matter intake increases plus as temperature and humidity increases. “Water consumption at 70 degrees Fahrenheit may increase by 50 percent and by almost 100 percent at 80 degrees Fahrenheit,” Pennington said.


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