Beef Cattle Water Requirements

Whether you’re new to cattle or you’re an old hand wanting solid advice for raising a healthy productive herd, there are many important factors to weigh. From purchasing and establishing your herd to housing, fencing, and feeding, there’s a lot to consider. Most importantly, you’ll want to consider your beef cattle water requirements.

It goes without saying – you want to spend your dollars wisely.  You know that  proper planning and foresight can go a long way to bolster your bottom line. Especially when it comes to watering your livestock, giving your animals that extra attention can ensure a bright, healthy future for your livestock operation.

Providing adequate and high-quality water at all times is a must for beef cattle. Water is the most abundant nutrient in the body and a critical nutrient for all classes of beef cattle. Whether planning a new operation or accessing your current situation, it’s wise to take-in the big picture when choosing watering methods.  We’ll look at ways to increase weight gain in cattle, and avoid pollutants, all the while providing an important input to your herd’s health and well-being.

Water quality

A continuous supply of clean water is essential for cattle. There are many choices including those that occur naturally. When streams, creeks, springs, or ponds are used as water sources for cattle, it is important to look at the reliability and quality of these water supplies.

During times of drought, streams, creeks, and ponds experience low water levels. The possibility of low water levels means that these water sources cannot be relied upon as the sole water source for cattle. Low water levels are only part of the problem.

Cattle congregate around water sources, especially if they are in shaded areas in warm weather. The areas immediately surrounding these water sources are high-traffic areas and suffer damage from cattle hooves. Soil erosion, pasture damage, and mudholes can follow.

Periods of drought and extended hot weather can lead to reduced surface water supplies. Decreased water levels lead to increased concentrations of contaminants that reduce water quality. Stagnant water sources may also serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Cool Water for Weight Gain

Water temperature has been identified as affecting animal preference to water. Warm water can reduce intake, and cool water can increase both water and feed intake. A recent study found that water intake by cattle increased when water temperatures were below 77°F. This increased water intake is often associated with improved feed intake and cattle weight gains.

Researchers have documented a 9 percent higher weight gain in nursing calves where the drinking water of the cow-calf pairs came from a fresh water source as compared to cattle drinking directly from a pond. Steers in the same study with access to fresh water instead of ponds demonstrated a 16 to 19 percent increase in weight.

Most groundwater supplies to cattle operations are naturally cool. Water brought from below the frostline will generally measure 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s a perfect temperature to help your cattle maintain hydration, increase water intake, and possibly add pounds to market weight.  Groundwater with its constant temperature encourages summer drinking and avoids wintertime freezing when used with an automatic waterer.

Even a simple watering trough has it’s down-side. Trough water heats up in the direct sun by late afternoon. Unfortunately, that’s the same time that cattle water intake typically peaks.   Offering a cool refreshing 50-degree drink – instead of sun-heated water – will encourage both greater water and greater feed intake in cattle.

Water Pollution and Cattle

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites are regularly found in ponds and other surface water supplies.  Be especially wary of drinking ponds that collect runoff from a manure source or that allow direct cattle access. While most microorganisms in cattle water supplies are quite harmless, some organisms can contribute to reduced cattle health and performance. Common pathogens that affect cattle are most often in the form of coliform bacteria or blue green algae.  Both contaminants can cause serious threats to your herd’s health.

What Are The Dangers?

Coliforms are bacteria that normally inhabit the digestive tracts of humans, cattle, and other animals. Ponds where cattle have free access can reach coliform concentrations exceeding 15,000 counts per milliliters (mL). Maximum levels of coliforms should not exceed 1–500 counts per 10 mL of water, with the lower end of this range for calves and the higher end for mature cattle.

Blue-green algae are bacteria that, under certain conditions, can produce toxins such as nerve toxins and liver toxins that can kill cattle quickly. Warm water is ideal for blue-green algae growth, so summer is the season when these algae are most likely to appear in cattle water supplies. Muscle tremors, difficult breathing, and collapse are signs of nervous system toxins, while weakness, pale mucous membranes, and bloody diarrhea are signs of liver toxins.

Planning for Beef Cattle Water Requirements

It’s clear that care and careful consideration must be used when planning access to water. Cattle will always need access to ­adequate supplies of clean water for maximum health and weight gain.  To provide your cattle with clean, fresh on-demand water – available year-round – we know of no better solution than a Drinking Post Frost Free Automatic Livestock Waterer.

Why Drinking Post is the best solution for your beef cattle water requirements? Most importantly, your cattle enjoy access to fresh, clean and 50-degree water year-round.

Unlike other cattle waterers, Drinking Post Waterers do not have standing water in the bowl. Every drink is fresh clean water for your animals that drain after every use.  So no more scummy, algae filled cattle water troughs or tanks!


The Drinking Post’s unique design does not require electricity to maintain temperature-controlled water! Our freeze proof and energy free cattle waterer are similar to frost free yard hydrants in installation and operation. No more standing water above the frost line!  The bowl fills once activated in 5-8 seconds and drains immediately after every use. No insulation or concrete pads needed to keep our cattle waterers frost free.

No Minimum Head Count

Whether you have a small herd or a large herd, Drinking Post automatic cattle waterers can service your watering needs! Many other automatic cattle watering systems require a set number of cattle to use their system to keep it freeze proof. With no standing water at risk of freezing, Drinking Post has no minimum head count to keep our waterers functional.

Strong Exterior Sleeve

Each frost-free cattle waterer is housed and protected by a strong exterior 8″ sleeve.  Recommended above ground height for cattle waterers is just below your smallest animal’s shoulder height, which means that most of the waterer will be supported and protected by ground cover and goes a long way to prevent rubbing.

The advantages of a Drinking Post are many.  Read much more today at our Ultimate Guide to Automatic Waterers:

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2 thoughts on “Beef Cattle Water Requirements”

  1. I found it helpful when you said that you must be wary of drinking ponds since contaminants could cause health threats. This is something that I will share with my father who is planning to use his new farmland to care for cattle and other livestock. I will ask him to consider your tips to keep his livestock as healthy as possible at all times.


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