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Maine Pasture Management Course - Lesson 7. Livestock Water Supply

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Maine Pasture Management Course

Lesson 7. Livestock Water Supply

The best reasons for installing a watering system for your grazing animals are to improve productivity, improve nutrient distribution within the pasture, and to improve water quality by keeping animals out of streams and ponds. By having water in each paddock, livestock will have more time to consume more feed. Livestock will then drink more water. The more feed they eat and the more water they drink, the more weight they will gain, the more milk they will produce, and the healthier they will be.

Table 1 shows the amounts of water typically required by different species of animals.

Table 1. Livestock Water Requirements

Livestock Types Gallons/Head/Day
Beef cattle, Dry dairy cows 12-15
Lactating dairy cows 40
Sheep, Llamas, Goats 2-4
Hogs 4
Horses 10-12

Much of the water requirement is furnished by the feed. Although livestock can get the majority of their water by grazing on lush forage that is 70 to 90% water, a good supply of clean water is essential in a grazing system. A 1999 study at Cornell University reveals that lactating Holstein cows need an additional 5 gallons of water per head per day on the average, but this can range up to 8 gallons or more on hot, dry days and much more when grazing on dry forage. Beef and horses require less. Sheep, llamas, and goats require less than a gallon per head per day in addition to what is furnished in the feed. If animals consume large quantities of water immediately after returning to the barn, then they probably are not getting enough water while grazing. Studies by Cornell University have shown increases in both milk and meat production where water is supplied in the paddocks.

Lesson 7 (continued)

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