Water, the number one nutrient required by all animals, is a critical part of a calf’s diet. Poor water quality and/or lack of availability can lessen calf growth and maturation as well as affect health and gut immunity.

Calf and Heifer Specialists Gary Geisler and Nick Stagg of Land O’Lakes Purina Feed offer the following tips and considerations to keep in mind regarding calves’ water consumption:

  • Providing warm water immediately after feeding milk can increase water intake.  This encourages calves to drink water before they lay back down after feeding.
  • Newborn calves don’t consume much water, but at a few days of age, start offering them small amounts of warm water.  By 2 months of age, they should be consuming up to 2 gallons of free-choice water per day, in addition to their milk or milk replacer.
  • Water should be fed to calves in all seasons, not just when the temperature rises. In the summer especially, water can become too warm and calves will reduce intake – just another reason to change water regularly along with clean buckets.
  • If possible, the water and grain buckets should be separated to avoid contamination from one to the other. Land O’Lakes Purina Feed’s research has shown better intakes of both when this was done.
  • Two critical elements for rumen development are:  Water and carbohydrates (starter feed). This is why it’s so important to have both available to the calf by 3-4 days of age. Increased water intake has shown to increase starter intake in calves. The combination of water intake and increased starter intake helps develop a healthy rumen sooner.