Obviously, water equals life, but for cattle ranchers, its also means profit.
Water is an essential nutrient for all animals, and to ensure your operation is profitable a good and nutritional
supply of water is essential for a healthy herd.
The amount water needed will vary depending on the breed, class, and the
climate in which they are being raised.
Good water quality is determined by a number of factors, including salinity, acidity,
pollution content and algae growth. Environmental factors, such as air temperature and feed supply quality also
must be looked at in the broader context for your cattle. Animal factors, which include differences among breeds
and ages within the herd, also play an important role in water consumption on the ranch.
Cows love salt.
But, what the cows don’t know and the rancher must is the salt content in their water is
essential to their nutrition. Cattle water must contain dissolved salts. Generally, surface waters are lower in
salt content compared with artesian or water that is coming from underground. Salinity in water will obviously
increase the amount of water they consume because the body will increase its water turnover rate to process the
Water with too high or too low pH values can cause
digestive problems in cattle, so it's important to test the pH levels in your herd's water supply often to make
sure they are at acceptable levels. Adding alum can correct high pH, but this should be undertaken with care as
alum is highly acidic. Water with a low pH can be treated by adding lime.
Toxic elements and compounds
High levels of iron, magnesium, arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and the fluorides can be
toxic to cattle and ultimately decrease production. You can have your water supply tested by a veterinarian or
Algae growth or bloom
Excessive levels of algae or growth in water
can be toxic as well. While some of it may be noticeably present, other forms can go undetected. A water analysis
will also uncover any algae or growths not visible to the human eye.
Age and condition
Certain factors make animals less tolerant of salty water; these include age, body
condition and pregnancy.
Certain breeds drink less water under hot
conditions than others; know the exact details of your cattle’s water consumption.
Troughs need to be drained and cleaned regularly.
Generally, cattle graze within a radius of about 2.5 to 3 miles of their water supply.
Knowing this, turning off and on water supplies has shown to be an effective way to manage the herd and control
their grazing habits. This should be done in conjunction within the broader context of your pasturing system. Water
supplies also can be used to manage your pastures or grazing areas, providing nutrients to surrounding plants and
Good water quality can translate directly into a successful ranching operation,
regardless of size. With water that is high in nutritional value and readily available, your herd will not only
maintain a healthy diet, but can be managed more effectively. Of course, feed type will also determine the amount
of water your cattle will consume, so make sure to keep this in mind when planning your watering system.
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