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Provision of enough quality water key to good livestock husbandry

Livestock at a watering point in Olderkesi, Narok county. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Animals, just like humans, can survive for weeks without food but only for a few days without water. And as the saying goes, water is life.

But what is the need for water in animals? Is water quality crucial and what quantity is sufficient for animals?

Water is the most important nutrient for animals, and it is essential to ensure animals have sufficient amounts of the same. Having water available to livestock allows for optimal animal performance and health.

Dry matter intake is directly related to water intake, and the less an animal drinks, the less feed it will consume.

This leads to reduced weight gains, milk production and performance. Water is essential for livestock production and is needed for numerous processes.

They include regulation of body temperature, growth, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, lubrication of joints among others.

It is an excellent solvent for amino acids, minerals, glucose, vitamins and metabolic waste. 

Why water quality is key

Water provided to livestock should be clean, cool, plenty, and easily available during hot climates.

A key consideration in the nutrition of livestock is the evaluation of the quality of drinking water. Limiting water availability to livestock will lower production rapidly.

The five properties most often considered in assessing water quality for livestock are: organoleptic properties (odour and taste), physiochemical properties (pH, total dissolved solids, total dissolved oxygen and hardness), presence of toxic compounds (heavy metals, toxic minerals), presence of excess minerals or compounds (nitrates, sodium sulfates and iron) and presence of bacteria.

The water provided to livestock needs to be of good quality to maintain production. Water quality may be altered by contaminants, such as mineral salts, toxins, heavy metals, microbial loads, debris and agricultural practices.

Most contaminants will reduce water intake, which results in a reduction in feed intake and a loss of production. 

Cause of infertility

High bacteria concentrations in water can cause infertility, foot rot, low milk production, and reproductive problems.

Stagnant water that is contaminated with manure and other contaminants can develop blue-green algae, which may be toxic to livestock.

How much water do animals need?

Providing enough quality water is essential for good livestock husbandry. Water makes up 80 per cent of the blood, regulates body temperature and is vital for organ functions such as digestion, waste removal and the absorption of nutrients.

Understanding daily livestock watering needs is key when designing a livestock watering system.

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