June 29, 2006
Water Paramount for Calves
Summertime temperatures increase the need for water for all livestock, but especially for calves, North Dakota State University Extension Service dairy specialist J.W. Schroeder says.
However, access to water may become a problem now that drought is impacting parts of North Dakota.
Schroeder cautions that the growth and health of calves in confinement and pastured animals will be compromised if producers don't make sure their calves receive enough water.
The important fact for producers to remember is that a young calf’s composition is 70 percent to 75 percent water by weight, which is why diarrhea can be so devastating when a calf is sick, according to Schroeder. Even though the calf seems healthy, not providing fresh, clean water in addition to milk or milk replacer is a mistake that can cost producers significant loses in calf growth and well-being.
Calves are susceptible to digestive problems because of their immature immune and digestive systems, he says. Thus, providing fresh water helps not only keep calves hydrated, it helps in maintaining daily health. Research shows calves with access to free-choice, clean water, in addition to their milk diet, consume more starter grain, which results in taller, faster growing, healthier calves.
“Clean water is just that; not swamp water, not water spoiled with feed, not two-day-old water,” Schroeder says.
He advises producers to check calf water buckets daily to make sure the water is clean and fresh. Cleaning the pails also is very important, especially if using the milk pail for water delivery, he says. Using the same pail tends to lead to dirty milk buckets, which provides an additional breeding ground for bacteria, primarily because the pail is not allowed to dry.
He suggests producers use the following chart to help determine if they are on target with the amount of water they provide their Holstein calves: