Water Requirements for Beef Cattle

Water Requirements for Beef Cattle

Things are heating up in the Panhandle, and everyone is trying cool off. Clean, fresh drinking water is critical for cattle performance in the summer heat. Photo Credit: K. Waters

When producers think about nutritional requirements for beef cattle, protein, energy, and minerals often come to mind. However, none of the above-mentioned nutrients will meet an animal’s needs without adequate water consumption.

There are minimum amounts of water required for growth, fetal development, lactation and the replacement of water from urine and evaporation (Table 1).  Going into the summer months in the Southeastern U.S., it is critical to remember that water is required for the animal to regulate body temperatures, as well as to maintain health and maximize production.

For producers, this means ensuring cattle have clean and abundant water sources available to them at all times. The total amount of water that is required for cattle is influenced by weight, stage of production, and weather conditions.

Factors influencing water requirements for cattle include:

  • Stage of production: Lactating cows will have a much higher water requirement. Milk composition in beef cows is about 4% fat and 8% other solids (proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals).  The remaining 88% of milk is water. Research in dairy herds shows that for every pound of milk produced by a cow, an additional 0.87 to 0.9 pounds of water will be required for consumption by that cow.
  • Environment: Temperature and humidity are key players in water consumption. For every 10 degrees above 40° F cattle consume about 1 more gallon of water per day.
  • Diet: Water content in the feed is highly variable. For example a total mixed ration (TMR) such that would be fed at a feed yard is much drier than what cattle grazing lush forages will be consuming.  As the water content of feed consumed increases, the amount of water cattle will drink decreases.

All of these factors impact the total water requirements and intake by cattle.  Cattle producers must continuously supply clean, fresh water to ensure they are meeting all of the nutritional requirements of their herd.

If you believe you have an issue with your water source or supply, please contact your county extension agent.

For more information on this topic, use the following links:

Estimating Water Requirements for Beef Cows

The Impact of Water Quality on Beef Cattle Health and Performance

Water Nutrition and Quality Considerations for Cattle


Weed of the Week:  Perilla Mint

Weed of the Week: Perilla Mint

Photo Credit: Tennessee Vascular Plants Eugene Wofford

Perilla Mint is a toxic ornamental that has escaped from landscapes in the Southern U.S. and is now an established pasture weed. As a summer annual it grows in shaded areas up to a height of 2 feet tall. It is often identified by its purple shading on the undersides of the leaves. All parts of the plant are toxic to livestock, with symptoms including labored breathing and death. Late April to early June is the ideal time to scout your pastures for Perilla Mint.

For help identifying weeds or developing a control plan for your operation, please contact your county extension agent. 

For more information on this topic please use the links for the following  publications:

UT Extension Perilla Mint

Scout Pastures for Toxic Perilla Mint

Spring is a Good Time to Scout Pastures for Toxic Weeds


Cattlemen Conversations: An Educational Video Series for Cattle Producers

Cattlemen Conversations: An Educational Video Series for Cattle Producers

Cattle producers are required to navigate a diverse range of management challenges, and make decisions that impact not only their current production cycle, but have lasting impact for years to come. For this reason, producers need to be current on trends, technologies, markets, nutrition, health, reproduction and more! In order to create a convenient, and relevant source of information for cattle producers across the nation Cattlemen Conversations was developed.

Cattlemen Conversations is a weekly video that is produced through collaboration between the University of Florida/ IFAS Extension Holmes County Agent, Kalyn Waters and South Dakota State University Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist Adele Harty. Each month 4 topics will be presented in a 10-minute video featuring an expert from the industry or academia. Speakers are represented from across the United States. These videos are available on social media, and through other electronic channels to cattle producers around the globe.

Videos are hosted on YouTube and also in the Facebook group called Cattlemen Conversations. At the conclusion of each video, viewers are asked to complete a brief survey. Each video survey completed will also be an entry in a drawing to win a high-end cooler, with drawings taking place every six months.

We invite you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn from experts across the nation without leaving your ranch/operation!

For more information about this program, please contact Kalyn Waters at 850-547-1108.


Weed of the Week: Lantana

Weed of the Week: Lantana


Credit: J. Ferrell, UF/IFAS

First introduced into the southern states as a perennial ornamental, Lantana is easily identified during the growing season by its vibrant multi-colored flowers. Currently, Lantana is listed as one of the top 10 more troublesome weeds in Florida, with documented occurrences in 58 of 67 counties. While it is still sold as an ornamental, commercially available varieties are sterile to control for the spread of the weed. The leaves of the plant are toxic if consumed by grazing animals. If consumed, symptoms of skin peeling and cracking typically come on slowly.  Lantana is not only toxic to livestock, but has been shown to produce toxin in its leaves and stems that slow or stop the growth of neighboring plants, allowing it to thrive, especially in disturbed areas.

For help to identifying weeds, or developing a control plan for your operation, please contact your county extension agent. 

For more information on this topic please see the following UF/IFAS Publication:

Control of Lantana in Pastures

Weed of the Week: Prickly Pear Cactus

Weed of the Week: Prickly Pear Cactus

Photo Credit: B.A. Sellers

Prickly Pear Cactus is not a pasture weed issue everywhere in Florida, but if you have them, they can be one of the most difficult weeds to control. Prickly Pear Cactus can reproduce through fragmentation, meaning that each pad can separate from the “mother plant” and set roots, and become a new plant. Because Prickly Pear Cactus can spread through fragmentation, mowing will cause major issues and result in rapid spreading of this cactus throughout the mowed field.

For help identifying weeds or developing a control plan for your operation, please contact your county extension agent. 

For more information on this topic please see the following UF/IFAS Publication:

Prickly Pear Cactus Control in Pastures