Keep Your Livestock Watered

It doesn’t matter whether outside temperatures are freezing or sweltering, livestock must have adequate fresh water to stay healthy. In fact, their health – and life – depend on it. Without sufficient water, feed can’t move through the animal’s digestive tract, which is potentially deadly.


watering your livestockTemperature, of course, determines how much water your livestock needs. For example, in 50-degree weather, beef cattle need 9-14 gallons per head per day; in 90-degree weather, however, that increases to 18-27 gallons.

A dairy cow needs anywhere from 16-26 gallons per day in cooler weather and from 26-45 gallons daily in hot weather, according to the University of Kentucky Extension Service.

Horses generally drink anywhere from 8-12 gallons per day, which increases when temperatures are up or their working or sweating. Smaller animals, such as goats and sheep, average 1-3 gallons.


Water is necessary at any time of year for your animal’s digestion, regulation of body temperature, growth, reproduction, lactation, eyesight, lubrication of joints, and as a cleansing agent.

Dehydration typically leads to decreased feed intake, resulting in reduced growth rates in cattle, poultry and swine. It also causes reduced milk production in dairy cattle. Dehydration also can turn deadly for livestock. Without adequate water for digestion, the animal’s digestive tract isn’t lubricated enough, which means feed can’t move through. The digestive tract may become impacted, which eventually could kill the animal.

Watch your animal to make sure they aren't exhibiting any signs to indicate they're not drinking enough. These signs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of bowel movements
  • Dry feces
  • A drawn-up belly


Water sources for pastured cattle could be a pond, stream, ditch, or tank, while corralled animals most likely will use a tank, tubs or automatic waterers. Whatever your watering method, make sure water is clean. Ponds, for example, may become stagnant and algae-filled, so you’ll need to provide another water source for your animals when that happens.

Make the effort to keep tanks or tubs clean and filled with fresh, drinkable water, because livestock should never be forced to drink dirty or stale water. Undrinkable water can reduce water consumption, which can lead to dehydration and health problems.

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