They’ll drink to that — cows and calves do better with cleaner water

Study finds cattle drink more from troughs, and that results in more milk and faster-gaining calves

Pumping dugout water into troughs can boost weight gain in calves.

In a study done at the Western Beef Development Centre, cow-calf pairs were provided with either direct access to a dugout or access to troughs of untreated water pumped from the same dugout. Calves with cows that drank from the troughs gained an additional 0.09 pound per day — or an extra 18 pounds per calf during the trial.

The reason is cattle with access to pumped water on summer pasture drink more. Pumped water is cleaner and more palatable because dugout water is contaminated with feces and urine. And cows that drink more water spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves.

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Treating surface water by aerating — or with coagulation and chlorination — has the potential to increase weight gain further. The same study found that yearling steers had eight to nine per cent higher weight gains when they had access to coagulated or aerated water before it was pumped compared to steers that only had access to dugout water. Steers gained three per cent more weight with access to untreated pumped dugout water versus direct dugout access.

Cattle weight gains are not the only benefits of pumping water. Producers can also prevent environmental, herd health, and pasture utilization problems that can result from direct watering from surface water sources.

Despite the costs, time, and effort of researching, installing, and maintaining watering systems, pumping water has the potential to increase profits.

For more information, see the Water Systems section at www.foragebeef.ca.

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