Temperature affects calves’ water intake

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Very limited information is available on the effects of drinking water temperature on dairy calves.

A recent experiment was designed to study the effects on performance, health, and water consumption of dairy calves offered drinking water either warm (60.8 to 64.4 degrees F) or cold (42.8 to 46.4 degrees F). There were 60 calves per treatment and they were housed in an insulated barn in pens of five. During the experimental period, 20 to 195 days of age, the calves had free access to water from an open water bowl. During the pre-weaning period, 20 to 75 days of age, all calves received 7.93 quarts of milk replacer per day and had free access to commercial starter, grass silage, and hay.

During the post-weaning period, 75 to 195 days, the weaned calves had free access to grass silage and hay and were given 6.6 pounds per day of a commercial concentrate mixture.

During the pre-weaning period, the water intake of the calves offered warm water was 47 percent higher than that of the calves offered cold water. Water intake in both treatments increased rapidly during weaning and for a few days following weaning. At 180 to 195 days of age, the calves consumed approximately 4.76 to 5.28 gallons of water daily. Calves offered warm water drank 7 and 8 percent more water during the post-weaning period and overall during the experimental period, respectively, compared with those offered cold water. No treatment differences were observed in dry matter or energy intakes, body weight gains, or feed conversion rates. Furthermore, total serum IgG concentrations of the calves did not differ during the pre-weaning or post-weaning periods. Dairy calves consumed more warm than cold water, but the increase in water intake did not influence feed intake, body weight gain, or health parameters, concluded researchers.

This research was published in the May 2011 Journal of Dairy Science.



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