Stock Perform Better When Drinking from Troughs
Dams are the main source of water for livestock in Victoria. The quality of this water source is therefore a high priority for livestock producers. Research indicates that cattle, when provided with high quality water, will drink more, eat more and ultimately, gain weight more quickly. Because weight gain in livestock is a priority for producers, it is worthwhile ensuring that stock water is of high quality.
Restricting stock access
Restricting stock access into water sources helps to maintain a good quality of water, and prolongs the life of the dam or stream.
It is known that dry matter intake is highly correlated to water consumption, that is, the more an animal drinks, the more it eats and vice versa (Murphy et al 1983). Willms et al (2002) reported that yearling heifers that had access to clean water pumped from a well/spring or river gained 23 per cent more weight than heifers with access to dam water only. It was also found that when dam water was pumped to a trough, it was preferred over dam water, suggesting that cattle might prefer to drink from a trough and avoid entering a dam.
Taking the water to the stock
An alternative to allowing direct stock access to a water source is to pipe water from the source to an intermediate storage, such as a trough.
Transporting water around the farm through a reticulation system can increase the flexibility of the grazing system and improve production.
Installing a stock watering system is often needed to change paddock layout so as to move from set stocking into a more intensive rotation. Once a suitable watering system is in place, producers have a greater ability to match their grazing system with animal needs according to the season and the amount of feed on offer.
In addition, pasture utilisation can be greatly enhanced when animals do not have to travel far for water. A trial showed that pasture carrying capacity could be increased by 14 per cent as a result of keeping cattle within 250 metres of water (Landefield & Bettinger 2002).
Implementing reticulated water within a grazing system can be effective in improving water quality and animal performance, altering distribution patterns of cattle, and reducing the potential impact of grazing on sensitive riparian areas. Plan to meet both current and future stock water needs.
Providing water in a trough compared to in a dam can improve water quality by excluding stock from the water source
Stock will drink more water if it is of high quality, leading to an increase in dry matter intake and accordingly an increase in weight gain
Stock prefer to drink out of a trough as the water is cleaner, more palatable and usually easier to access
By reticulating water, pasture utilisation can be increased through improved grazing management
Landefield, M. and Bettinger, J. (2002) Water Effects on Livestock Performance. Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University http://ohioonline.osu.edu
Murphy, MR., Davis, CL., McCoy, GC (1983) Factors affecting water consumption by Holstein cows in early lactation. Journal of Dairy Science 66:35.
Willms, WD., Kenzie, OR., McAllister, TA., Colwell, D., Veira, D., Wilmhurst, JF., Entz, T., and Olson, ME. (2002) Effects of water quality on cattle performance. Journal of Range Management. 55:452- 460.
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Published by the Department of Primary Industries, Farm Services Victoria, March 2012. Written by Annieka Paridaen as part of the Farm Water Solutions project
© The State of Victoria, 2012
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