Watering Tips for Cattle Herds

By Hubert J. Karreman, V.M.D.

When summer has arrived with lots of hot and humid days, let’s remember our cows while we are out in the fields. Thinking about water for our animals is always smart.


Here are some tips regarding water quality and animal health:

1. Provide clean, fresh water—the most important nutrient!

  • Cows can drink up to thirty gallons of water each day (depending on production, size, season)
  • If not provided, cows will search for water in ditches, puddles, and streams.
  • Monitor quality: nitrates, coliforms. If needed, use peroxide, sand filters, UV light, etc.
  • Monitor quantity: get a water meter if needed
  • Your cows are your income; they deserve lots of good, clean water to keep making lots of milk.
  • Cows never get used to bad water.

2. Standing Water Can Harbor Diseases

  • Puddles in barnyards contain manure and urine.
  • Salmonella, coliforms, and lepto thrive in puddles and saturated manure.
  • Clinical signs include diarrhea, fever, mastitis, and abortions.
  • Saturated manure and moist bedding in pens or stalls are hotbeds for disease.
  • Stressed animals (just fresh or high-producing cows) are at increased risk.

3. Slow-Moving Water Carries Diseases with It

  • Cows standing in streams are exposed to the problems happening upstream.
  • Cows urinating and dropping manure into streams create problems for your neighbors downstream, and we are all, in a sense, “downstream.”

4. Warm, Wet Conditions Can Hurt Hooves/Start Mastitis

  • Muck and puddles will soften hooves to such an extent that bacteria can enter and gravel can easily puncture the soles, causing abscesses, footrot, and/or strawberry/hairy heel.
  • Leaky, heavy producers will have environmental germs (coliforms, strep, and staph) enter the teat canal. This is usually caused by moist bedding in the stall or lying as a group under a tree. The result will be high somatic cell count or actual mastitis.

Source: Four-Seasons Cattle Care