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Importance of Water Intake in Dairy Cattle

Water constitutes 60 to 70 percent of a livestock animal’s body. Water is necessary for maintaining body fluids and proper ion balance; digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing nutrients; eliminating waste material and excess heat from the body; providing a fluid environment for the fetus; and transporting nutrients to and from body tissues. Dairy cattle get the water they need by drinking and consuming feed that

contains water, as well as from metabolic water produced by the oxidation of organic nutrients. Water loss from the body occurs via urine, feces, and milk; through sweating; and by evaporation from body surfaces and the respiratory tract. The amount of water lost from a cow’s body is influenced by the animal’s activity, air temperature, humidity, respiratory rate, water intake, feed consumption, milk production and other factors.

Lactating cows

Drinking water or free water in- take satisfies 80 to 90 percent of a dairy cow’s total water needs. The amount of water a cow drinks depends on her size and milk yield, quantity of dry matter consumed, temperature and relative humidity of the environment, temperature of the water, quality and availability of the water, and amount of moisture in her feed. Water is an especially important nutrient during periods of heat stress. The physical properties of water are important for the transfer of heat from the body to the environment. During periods of cold stress, the high heat capacity of body water acts as insulation– conserving body heat. Water intake (lbs/day) for lactating cows can be predicted from the following equation:

Water intake, lbs/day = 35.25 + 1.58 x Dry matter intake (lbs/day) + 0.90 x Milk yield (lbs/day) + 0.11 x Sodium intake (grams/day) + 2.65 x Weekly mean minimum temperature (°F/1.8 – 17.778)

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