A bottle of hot water goes farther than a bucket
By Tana Dennis, Young Animal Nutrition Dairy Technology Application Lead
One thing that farms with great calf growth rates have figured out is how to feed water. This is especially valuable in the winter when a calf’s time spent eating and drinking is lessened due to harsh weather conditions.
While offering water to calves may seem obvious, there are still important reasons for why and how to feed it. For reference, water is the nutrient needed in the greatest quantity and makes up about 70% of a calf’s body weight. Calves will often increase water intake when scouring. Drinking more water is also associated with higher grain intake and growth rates.
So, what do farms with great calf growth rates have figured out? It’s that offering a bottle of hot water in the winter is better than just a bucket of water.
(Refer to the image above.) A Nurture Research Center study found over a period of eight weeks that calves given a three-quart bottle of hot water daily for one hour at midday consumed an additional 10 pounds of grain. This was compared to calves given free-choice ambient temperature water in a bucket.
Based on daily averages, bottle drinkers consumed 1.4 quarts of water compared to 0.2 quarts for bucket drinkers showing that calves prefer drinking warm water (and during the winter hot water) from a bottle.
Winter water tips for calves:
- Provide water at temperatures between 100- and 105-degrees Fahrenheit
- Offer water 15 to 20 minutes after a milk feeding – this ensures that the esophageal groove has closed and allows water to enter the rumen instead of the stomach
- Give an extra bottle of hot water or electrolytes during the day to calves experiencing diarrhea
- Adding a third bottle feeding of at least two quarts of water (in addition to two feedings of milk) will provide enough water for an additional 0.5 to 1 pound of grain intake
If you’re wondering where we get our calf intel from you can visit our Nurture Research Center’s page. There you will find research related to calf and heifer nutrition and health.