Drinking Gains

Average Daily Gains Improve Based on Water Source


By Victoria G Myers, Progressive Farmer/DTN



Cows, calves and steers on pasture gained significantly more pounds per day, when the water they drank was fresh and pumped into a trough. The comparison was made to cattle that drank directly from a pond.


Caitlin Hebbert, livestock consultant with the Noble Research Institute, Noble, Oklahoma, reports it's easy to forget water is a nutrient. As such it has nutritional value that affects livestock, and its quality changes throughout the season.


In the summer months, specifically, evaporation can concentrate elements in water, reports the consultant. This can lead to excessive salinity, high mineral concentrations, high nitrogen content, bacteria contamination or even heavy growths of toxic, blue-green algae.


Shane Gadberry, animal scientist, University of Arkansas, says this time of the year cattle that aren't drinking as much water as they need can have trouble maintaining body condition.


"It goes back to what would cause a reduction in water consumption, and what can be done realistically to change it," says Gadberry. "On the pond side, a challenge is that as water starts to evaporate the ponds can become very muddy."


He also notes producers should be aware if they fertilize pastures, runoff into ponds can create conditions conducive to higher nitrates.


Water quality matters so much because a beef cow can drink a lot of water in a day, depending on time of year and temperature. During the summer months, some studies estimate she drinks about 10% of her body weight. A lactating beef cow will drink more, some estimates nearly double the amount to 18% - 20% of her body weight. The quality of that water, says Hebbert, has a direct impact on average daily gains (ADG). When water is poor in quality, cattle consume less and they also eat less.


A study from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada shows...