16 February 1996

MATCH WATER SUPPLY TO A COWS THIRST

Its easy to underestimate cattle drinking water requirements, especially in hot weather as many producers discovered to their cost last summer. New field drinking troughs and water pipes may need to be installed over the next two months to safeguard drinking supplies this year. Jessica Buss reports

RESTRICTING water by poor supply may damage animal health and production and certainly contravenes animal welfare codes.

This is the view of Ruthin-based ADAS livestock consultant Dr David Peers. He accepts it is difficult to know how much water has been consumed by animals but trough water levels must be checked every day.

"The size of water troughs must allow animals to work as a group," he says. "Troughs should enable a number to drink at once – even though each one may only drink for a short period.

"Water supplies must also be chemically and bacterially safe. This is more important for dairy cows for milk is sold for human consumption."

He says allowing cattle to drink from water courses is acceptable providing they are free from pollution.When in doubt about water quality take a total bacterial count to check for coliforms or steptococcus.

Algae which grows in troughs is harmless to animal health, but beware of iron oxide for this can block supply pipes or valves.