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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #266717

Title: Range Cattle Winter Water Consumption in Northern Great Plains

item Petersen, Mark
item Muscha, Jennifer - Boyle
item Roberts, Andrew - Andy
item MULLINIKS, J - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Western Section of Animal Science Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/16/2011
Publication Date: 6/20/2011
Citation: Petersen, M.K., Muscha, J.M., Roberts, A.J., Mulliniks, J.T. 2011. Range Cattle Winter Water Consumption in Northern Great Plains. Western Section of Animal Science Proceedings 62:73-75.

Interpretive Summary: Environmental conditions and water temperature influence water consumption. Cows on warm water increase daily water intake compared to cows on cold water. Supplying warm water during the winter may also change behavior of grazing livestock by changing number of trips per day to the drinker and time going to the drinker.

Technical Abstract: Water consumption and DMI has been found to be positively correlated and may interact to alter range cow productivity. Environmental conditions can have a significant influence on water consumption during the winter. The objective of this study was to determine influences of water and air temperature on quantity and pattern of water intake. Six paddocks (320 ha) were grazed from December through February in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 by 79 pregnant range cows at USDA-ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, MT. Three paddocks provided cold (8.2 ±0.4°C) and three paddocks provided warm (31.1 ± 1.3°C) stock water. Warm water drinkers were heated by a Rheem outdoor tankless propane water heater. Water intake was measured daily for each paddock (0830) by an electronic water flow meter. Days were categorized by daily high temperature: warm (> -3°C), cool (-9.5°C to -3°C), and cold (< -9.5°C). In order to determine drinking patterns for each paddock a motion activated camera was set up at each water source to determine time of day water was consumed and the number of trips/d. Water temperature, daily high temperature, yr, and their interactions were evaluated and analyzed as a 2 × 3 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments with paddock serving as the experimental unit. Cows in warm water paddocks consumed more water than cows provided cold water (P < 0.01; 27.7 and 19.5 ± 1.0 L/d for cows drinking warm and cold water, respectively). Year × water temperature × daily high temperature interactions (P < 0.01) were observed for number of trips to water and time at water per day. However, percent of cows drinking each day was not influenced by water temperature (P = 0.56; 65 and 68 ± 3% for cold and warm water, respectively). Results from this study shows that daily water intake is increased when heated water is provided to cows grazing winter range.