You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only. As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.

To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at http://www.ext.vt.edu/news/.

Newsletter Archive index: http://sites.ext.vt.edu/newsletter-archive/

Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Water for Cattle -- How Much is Enough?

Livestock Update, September 1999

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech

As the drought continues in Virginia, our attention has turn from feed to water. Many counties are reporting at least some of their producers hauling water to cattle. Hauling water is an expensive and laborious chore. Be careful that you are not spending more money on hauling water than the value of the cow warrants.

Water is the most essential nutrient for life. Cattle can live for many days or a few weeks without food, but will die within a few days without water. Water needs to be fresh, clean and plentiful to ensure maximum intake. Temperature of the water does not seem to affect cattle very much. Research indicates that cattle readily drink water that is 40 - 90 F. Water intake will vary with environmental temperature and dryness of the feed. Cows eating lush grass on a cool spring day will drink much less water than cows grazing the same field in the middle of summer. Water requirements for cattle are given in Table 1. A good rule of thumb is cattle need 1.5 gallon for every 100 lbs of body weight.

Table 1. Total Daily Water Intake (gallons) as Affected by Temperature and Feed Intake1

Temperature:
Gallons of water/lb drymatter (dm):

40F
0.37

50F
0.40

60F
0.46

70F
0.54

80F
0.62

90F
0.88

500-lb calf (12 lb dm)

4.4

4.8

5.5

6.5

7.4

10.6

750-lb preg. heifer (16.6 lb dm)

6.1

6.6

7.6

9.0

10.3

14.6

1,100-lb dry preg. cow (20 lb dm)

7.4

8.0

9.2

10.8

12.4

17.6

1,100-lb lactating cow (22 lb dm)

8.1

8.8

10.1

11.9

13.6

19.4


1 Adapted from Winchester and Morris, 1956. Water intake rates of cattle. Journal of Animal Science 15:722

The statement that cattle need clean fresh water often causes concern among producers that are using above ground storage tanks. Water can be held in these tanks for several days without many problems. If the algae growth gets too great, tanks should be drained and cleaned.



Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension