Water accounts for 50 to 80% of the animal’s weight. It is therefore an essential nutrient required for all biological functions including temperature regulation, digestion, foetal development, and milk production. As such, an adequate supply of drinking water is an essential component of cattle production. Farmers need to be concerned with the amount and quality of water provided as it has a direct correlation on production. To add on, the quality and rations of water determine the health of livestock hence the need to ensure its adequate supply. Without an adequate supply of clean water, feed intake greatly decreases, the cow becomes dehydrated and body functions fail. Due the continuous drought seasons recorded in most parts of the world, farmers have been failing to provide cows with a sufficient clean water supply. It is however of the essence to understand that because of the previously mentioned effects, cows cannot drink dirty water.

Effects of Dirty Water on Health

It is well established that water quality is one of the most important factors affecting intake which in turn can affect health and production.  Experts point out that although cows can tolerate poor water quality better than humans, high concentrations of toxicity among other compounds can adversely affect their overall well-being. For this reason, cows cannot drink dirty water. Note that the herd’s drinking water may appear clear but still contain contaminants. The most common ones being bacteria which can quickly spread across the herd. One of the main biological contaminants found in water available to cows is manure/faeces. It comprises of pathogenic bacteria that causes lepto, crypto, scours and mastitis in cows. To add on, water that may appear clean can still be high in dissolved solids which can also be harmful to cows. Water quality can also be affected by the amount of nutrients found it in. An excessive supply of some nutrients can be harmful. Basically an excess of one mineral, or a lack of it, can affect the availability of several other minerals. Too much iron can also be a common issue with livestock water quality. Cows cannot drink dirty water containing excess iron as it is known to inhibit copper and zinc absorption thereby causing a condition called cellular oxidative stress. Cows cannot drink dirty water because it can have high concentrations of sulphates and chlorides. These are considered as salts and so increased consumption can lead to diarrhoea as well as growth problems.

Effects of Dirty Water on Production

Not only is it important that good quality water be provided to cattle, but clean water must be available at all times. Another factor to be aware of is that cows cannot drink dirty water not only because of contaminants but also due to the smell of the water. Cows do not like bad smelling water and often find it unpalatable. Consequently, their water intake is decreased exposing them to further attacks by disease and infection which hinder productivity costing farmers a lot of money. Water may not smell bad to humans but livestock can find it smelly leading to reduced intake. It is important to be aware of the possible contaminants of livestock drinking water so as to ensure a sufficient supply of good quality and clean water. Since cows cannot drink dirty water, it then becomes necessary for farmers to make sure that it is tested and treated accordingly prior to intake.

Can Cows Drink Pond Water?

Cows can drink pond water as it is regarded as a clean water source. Studies have consistently shown that water consumption is directly related to dry matter intake. The more dry matter consumed, the more weight calves can put on and the more milk they produce. Additionally, the amount of water consumed is dependent on the season as well as forage quality. During the summer season, water consumption among cows may rise drastically by a factor 1.2 to 2. This means that a 50kg yielding cows needs about 250 to 350 litres of water, provided temperatures are approximately 27oC. Cows provided with insufficient water supply often opt for dirty water as a means of keeping hydrated. As such, some farmers make use of ponds to counter this challenge. Since cows cannot drink dirty water, ponds are ideal for providing a reliable water source. However, pond water should be tested frequently. This is because it can be contaminated by bacteria such as E.coli that can result in disturbing health effects. When there is proper management of livestock, cows can drink pond water without experiencing any negative effects on health and productivity.

Can Cows Drink Well Water?

Cows can drink well water provided that it is clean. Farmers should also make sure that water troughs are clean because cows cannot drink dirty water. Water is the most essential of all nutrients required by livestock and humans alike. Despite this important factor, little thought is given to the quality of that water. A common misconception is that animals are able to drink unclean water, this is however not the case. Studies reveal that cows cannot drink dirty and so there is need to ensure that it is clean prior to consumption. Cows should be provided with water at or below body temperature; warm water ought to be avoided. They need cool drinking water to help maintain their body temperature during periods of hot weather. Generally cows can drink well water. Nonetheless, water quality should be assessed before and sometimes during use. Water quality assessment is generally based the following factors:

  • physical/organoleptic properties (odour, taste, turbidity, temperature)
  • physiochemical properties
  • excess nutrients
  • toxic substances
  • microbiological agent

Can Cattle Drink Salt Water?

Cows can drink salt water depending on the level of salinity. Although cows cannot drink dirty water, they are able to tolerate slightly higher levels of salinity. According to experts, tolerance to salt water varies between livestock species. Pregnant, lactating and younger cows are less tolerant to salty water in comparison to mature dry stock. Note that salinity of water sources can change over time and between seasons. Excessive salinity in livestock drinking water can upset the animals’ water balance; in severe cases, this can cause death. For this reason, water sources should be checked often, particularly during summer when salinity increases due to evaporation. Salinity levels can be controlled by making sure that water troughs are kept clean. It is advisable to clean tanks before each summer scrub and flush water troughs often, even up to twice a week. Since cows cannot drink dirty water, this practise is recommended for improved health and productivity.