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Water requirements for horses
When horses consume winter feeds, water requirements may increase. Hay and grain typically contain less than 15% moisture, while in contrast, pastures posses 60 to 80% moisture. There are two common complications resulting from inadequate water consumption during cold weather: decreased feed intake and impaction colic. Even if quality feed is offered, horses will consume less if not drinking enough water. If less feed is consumed, horses might not have enough energy to tolerate the cold. Fecal contents must maintain adequate moisture levels. If fecal material becomes too dry, intestinal blockage or impaction may occur. A horse will not develop an impaction in one day, but can over several days to several weeks of inadequate water consumption.
Most adult horses weighing 1,000 pounds require a minimum of 10 to 12 gallons of water each day for their basic physiological needs. During winter months, water should be kept between 45 to 65°F to maximize consumption. Previous research indicated that ponies increased their water consumption by approximately 40% each day when the water was warmed above freezing during cold weather. Increasing salt intake will also stimulate a horse to drink more; adult horses should consume one to two ounces of salt per day. Waterers should be cleaned regularly, and clean, fresh water should always be available, regardless of temperature.
University of Minnesota Extention
Oklahoma State University
Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
Water for Dairy Cattle
Providing the opportunity for livestock to consume a rela¬tively large amount of clean, fresh water is essential. Water is consumed several times per day and is generally associated with feeding or milking. Cows may consume 30 to 50 percent of their daily water intake within 1 hour after milking. Reported rates of water intake vary from 1 to 4 gallons per minute. On the basis of farm studies, the length of water troughs should be 2 inches per cow with an optimal height of 24 to 32 inches. Reducing the height 2 to 3 inches may be logical for Jerseys. Water depth should be a minimum of 3 inches to allow the animal to submerge its muzzle 1 to 2 inches. Provide at least one watering device for every 15 to 20 cows, or a minimum of two foot of tank space per 20 cows. At least two water loca¬tions are needed in the loafing area for each group of cows. For confinement operations, waterers should be located at the milking parlor exit and within 50 feet of the feed bunk or at every crossover in freestall barns. For grazing operations, water also should be located at the milking parlor exit and in each paddock so that animals are always within 600 feet of a clean, fresh water source. Heifers should be provided at least one watering space per 20 animals with a minimum of two waterers per group.
Winter Livestock Management
The necessity of a clean and reliable year-round source of water cannot be overemphasized. Novice managers often mistakenly believe that animals can meet water requirements by eating snow or licking ice. With daily water requirements varying from three gallons (sheep) to 14 gallons (cattle), one can see that livestock would need to spend every waking hour eating snow to meet their requirements. Ice and snow consumption also lowers body temperature and increases maintenance energy needs, so it should be discouraged.
Water consumption is encouraged when water temperature is 37°F or above. Tank heaters may be required to ensure that water sources do not freeze. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ recommendations to prevent fires and electric shocks or electrocution of livestock. If heaters are not used, unfrozen water should be provided several times a day. Ensuring adequate water intake will encourage optimal health and performance of livestock and help prevent serious conditions such as colic and impaction.
Water Effects on Livestock Performance
Extension Agent, Agricultural and Natural Resources
Lead District Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Limitation of water intake reduces animal performance quicker and more dramatically than any other nutrient deficiency (Boyles). Water constitutes approximately 60 to 70 percent of an animal's live weight and consuming water is more important than consuming food (Faries, Sweeten & Reagor, 1997). Domesticated animals can live about sixty days without food but only about seven days without water. Livestock should be given all the water they can drink because animals that do not drink enough water may suffer stress or dehydration.
Signs of dehydration or lack of water are tightening of the skin, loss of weight and drying of mucous membranes and eyes. Stress accompanying lack of water intake may need special considerations. Newly arrived animals may refuse water at first due to differences in palatability. One should allow them to become accustomed to a new water supply by mixing water from old and new sources. If this is not possible, then intake should be monitored to be sure no signs of dehydration occur until animals show adjustment to the new water source.
Helene McKernan Equine Research Associate
313 ASI Bldg
University Park, PA 16802
University Park, PA 16802
How much water does a horse consume in a day? The average horse will intake 5 to 10 gallons of fresh water per day. Just like humans different horses crave or need different water amount intakes. A horse deprived of feed, but supplied drinking water, is capable of surviving 20 to 25 days. A horse deprived of water may only live up to 3 or 6 days. After lacking water intake for two days a horse may refuse to eat and exhibit signs of colic and other life-threatening ailments. Just like humans, in the heat of summer, a horse will enjoy cool, fresh water, but in cold winter situations, difficulties arise in providing water that is too cold or in a semi-frozen state. Humans enjoy a cup of hot tea, coffee or chocolate to warm their internal system and needs in the winter. Horse owners have discovered that warming the drinking water for their horse during the winter will lead to the horse consuming more water.