Why The Right Watering System Matters

Mark Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Grassland Services of Reeds Spring, Mo., says the right livestock watering system improves herd health and efficiency. Kennedy, who is also a retired NRCS state grazing lands specialist, outlines the reasons in a slide presentation, “Livestock Watering Systems,” available as a downloadable PDF at mosoilandwater.land/sites/mosoilandwater/files/internal-grassland-livestock-watering.pdf(opens in new window).

Cattle come to water two to five times daily. They drink one to four minutes each time at a rate of 2 gallons per minute. In hot weather, they can drink up to 25 gallons of water or an average of 3-5 pounds of water per pound of body weight. Calves need better-quality water than cows. They often avoid going through mud and other obstacles to reach a water source. They drink 5-7 pounds of water per pound of body weight.

Cattle that have water within 600-800 feet drink 15% more water than cattle that have to walk more than 1,000 feet. That is why having water in each paddock and close to cattle matters so much, Kennedy says.

Cattle “drink socially” when traveling farther. Kennedy recommends tank space for 10% of the herd with a flow rate sufficient to water the herd in 20 minutes. On the other hand, cattle tend to drink “individually” when the paddock is smaller than 10 acres or the cattle have to travel 1/8 mile or less for water. In this situation, the herd owner can usually get by with a smaller tank and less flow.

For more information, the MU Extension publication “Pumps and Watering Systems for Managed Beef Grazing” (EQ380) is available for free download at extension.missouri.edu/p/EQ380(opens in new window).

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