Beef Cattle Water Requirements Changing With Summer Heat
Dr. Rachel Endecott, MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
Of the six classes of nutrients — carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water — water is the most often overlooked, yet the most critical. Cattle performance can be affected by water intake.
Water requirements are a bit of a moving target, as feeds contain water and the metabolism of certain nutrients in the body produces water. This means that not all the water needs must be supplied as drinking water. High moisture feeds such as silages or pasture have increased water content, while harvested forages such as hay and straw contain little water. Cattle water needs are influenced by temperature, physiological stage, and weight (Table 1).
Water intake increases dramatically at high temperatures; in fact, water requirements double between 50° and 95° F! Table 2 illustrates the daily water requirements in gallons per 100 pounds of body weight for cattle at 90° F. This implies that a spring calving cow-calf pair would require 28 gallons of water for a 1400-lb cow plus an additional 7-9 gallons for a 350-450-lb calf (some of this increased calf water requirement can be met by milk intake).
Providing unlimited access to clean, fresh water will ensure cattle performance is not negatively impacted; this goal becomes even more critical with increasing temperatures.