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Effects of Air and Water Temperature, and Stream Access on Grazing Cattle Water Intake Rates

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  034034,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.15027) @2003
Authors:   José R. Bicudo, Carmen T. Agouridis, Stephen R. Workman, Richard S. Gates, Eric S. Vanzant
Keywords:   Beef cattle, grazing, heat stress, water, GPS, best management practices

The objective of this study was to characterize water intake by grazing beef cattle in warm weather, with or without access to a stream. Two pairs of pasture plots each with stocking rate of about 850 kg/ha (760 lb/ac) were used as experimental units. Two different treatments were evaluated: (a) limited access to the stream through a constructed crossing with an alternative water source; (b) free access to the stream with an alternative water source. Water intake from alternative water sources, water and air temperature, and relative humidity were monitored continuously for two months (August and September of 2002). Most pastures plots were severely dry, and cattle either lost weight or gained very little during the study period. Approximately 50% of the total numbers of cattle grazing in any one plot were fitted with GPS collars for position and activity monitoring. Cattle water intake was significantly affected by water temperature (WT), temperature and humidity index (THI), and stream accessibility during warm weather. Water intake rates were higher when THI values were above 75 or WT values were below 25 oC (77 oF) for either free or limited stream access. Cattle with free access to the stream consumed water mostly from the streams, especially when WT values was above 25 oC (77 oF). Diurnal water intake patterns seemed to follow previously reported cattle behaviors in grazing situations, but it was interesting to know that cattle spent more time near the waterers in the afternoon hours, corresponding to the hottest part of the day.

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