Water Needs in the Winter

Think your livestock can get by with a little less water this winter? Think again.

An unfortunately common misconception is that livestock farmers don’t need to provide their animals with as much water in the winter as they do the rest of the year. While it is true that heat stress related dehydration isn't an issue in the winter, your animals still expend significant energy trying to keep warm, eating more as a result. Increased food intake demands increased water intake, and that demand for water must be met by you, the farmer. Some farmers mistakenly believe livestock can stay hydrated solely by eating snow or licking ice, but neither is sufficient to meet your animals’ daily water needs. Pigs drink 3-5 gallons of water per day, while dairy cows drink anywhere from 30-50 gallons of water per day, and a flock of broiler chickens can average 50-100,000 gallons of water every day. So to meet their daily quota, your livestock would need to do nothing but chomp on snow all day long. Since a 24/7 snow binge will serve no other purpose than to lower the body temperature of your animals and increase their risk of hypothermia, it’s necessary to keep their drinking water supply thawed. The recommended temperature for  livestock drinking water is 37° or above. Smart Barn’s temperature sensor has a probe for your water tanks that makes it easy to monitor your water temperature from wherever you are.  

On dairy farms, one way to ensure drinking water stays warm enough is through the use of milk heat exchangers. Heat exchangers dispense the water used to cool the freshly stored milk into watering bowls, naturally warmed by the milk’s higher temperature.

Other livestock farms without the advantage of heat exchange will find it advantageous to invest in stock tank warmers. Whether propane, wood-burning, electric or submersible, a stock tank warmer is a worthwhile investment. They can be purchased online or in most farm equipment stores. Alternately, there are a number of different DIY solutions to the problem of freezing stock tanks.

Regardless of the method you choose, make sure your system stays fully functional by monitoring your power usage. You’ll be glad you did - and so will your livestock.