Getting enough water of sufficient quality is the key to good animal husbandry

Cattle at a waterhole in Olderkesi, Narok County. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Animals, just like humans, can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. And as the saying goes, water is life.

But what is the need for water in animals? Is water quality critical and how much is enough for animals?

Water is the most important nutrient for animals, and making sure animals get enough of it is essential. Having water available to livestock allows for optimal performance and health of the animals.

The consumption of dry matter is directly linked to the consumption of water, and the less an animal drinks, the less food it consumes.

This leads to reduced weight gains, milk production and performance. Water is essential for animal production and is necessary for many processes.

They include the regulation of body temperature, growth, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, joint lubrication, among others.

It is an excellent solvent for amino acids, minerals, glucose, vitamins and metabolic waste.

Why water quality is essential

Water supplied to livestock should be clean, cool, plentiful, and readily available in hot climates.

A key consideration in livestock nutrition is the assessment of the quality of drinking water. Limiting the availability of water for livestock will cause production to decline rapidly.

The five properties most often considered in the evaluation of water quality for livestock are: organoleptic properties (odor and taste), physicochemical properties (pH, total dissolved solids, total dissolved oxygen and hardness), the presence of toxic compounds (heavy metals, toxic minerals), the presence of excess minerals or compounds (nitrates, sodium sulphates and iron) and the presence of bacteria.

Water supplied to livestock must be of good quality to maintain production. Water quality can be affected by contaminants, such as minerals, toxins, heavy metals, microbial loads, debris and agricultural practices.

Most contaminants will reduce water consumption, resulting in reduced food consumption and loss of production.

Cause of infertility

High concentrations of bacteria in the water can cause infertility, foot rot, low milk production, and reproductive problems.

Standing water that is contaminated with manure and other contaminants can develop blue-green algae, which can be toxic to livestock.

How much water do animals need?

Providing sufficient quality water is essential for good breeding. Water makes up 80 percent of the blood, regulates body temperature, and is vital for body functions such as digestion, waste removal, and nutrient absorption.

Understanding the daily watering needs of livestock is essential when designing a livestock watering system.

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