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They’ll drink to that — clean water boosts weight gain

Providing pumped water can boost weaning weights by 18 pounds and reduce health issues

Giving cattle access to clean water can improve herd health and increase weight gain and backfat.

A 2005 study reported that calves whose dams drank from water troughs gained on average 0.09 pound per day more than those with access to a dugout.

Because water and forage intake are closely related, as cows drink more water they also spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves. Calves with access to clean pumped water were on average 18 pounds heavier at weaning time. A 2002 study found calves with dams drinking clean water gained nine per cent more weight than calves with dams with access to the drinking pond.

Contaminated water also reduces water consumption and weight gain. The 2005 study found that calves provided with water aerated and pumped to a trough in early summer tended to have greater gains (0.18 and 0.19 pound per day respectively) than ones drinking directly from a dugout. This appears to be related to improved water palatability, with aeration and pumping to a trough improving weight gain nine to 10 per cent over a 90-day grazing period in most years.

The same study also found yearling steers had eight to nine per cent higher weight gain when they had access to water that had been coagulated or aerated. Steers gained three per cent more weight with access to untreated pumped dugout water versus direct dugout access.

In addition, a water system results in fewer disease problems, provides water source protection, reduces soil erosion, is safer, improves pasture usage, and enhances wildlife habitat.

A water systems calculator that estimates the potential economic benefits and costs of alternative watering systems can be found at the Beef Cattle Research Council website.

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