Feed water successfully

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Temperatures at Sunset View Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y., can range from as low as -40 degrees F in winter to as high as 110 degrees F in summer.


In this Tip of the Week from the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association, Sandy Quinn shares why feeding water is important to calves and heifers year round; how to properly supply the water; and how to make sure you are feeding clean water.  


Successfully feeding water helps:

  • Keep animals hydrated
  • Develop the rumen
  • Accelerate starter grain intake

Quinn says:

"At each stage of life, the best water feeding methods vary. For wet calves, water should be close to the body/milk temperature, which is around 90-100 degrees F. Wet calves should receive 2 1/2 gallon pails that are filled at least twice a day. In between feedings the pail should be cleaned, sanitized and dried before refilling. To properly clean the pails, rinse with warm water (110 degrees F) and proceed to wash with hot, chlorinated water (140-160 degrees F). Rinse the pail with an acid solution at the same temperature and let the pail air dry.


Freshly weaned calves (to 10 weeks of age) should be water feeding from 8-gallon "muck buckets" in six-calf superhutches. For these animals, the "muck bucket" should be filled between three and four times a day and the bucket should be cleaned daily. The cleaning process for the muck bucket is simpler and can be completed by washing and scrubbing with warm, chlorinated water.


Older heifers need continuous-flow waterers and they should be sanitized one to three times per week. The best cleaning method is to scrub with chlorinated water."


Quinn offers these tips:

  • During hot weather, refill the water supply around mid-day. Also, rinse milk out and refill it after the night feeding.
  • In freezing weather, do not leave the water supply out overnight and remember to dump the water at mid-day and refill the buckets.
  • The best practice for water disposal is to place all water in a common receptacle and haul it away once it is full.


For additional information on water feeding,  click here to review DCHA's Gold Standards III, section IV.

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