Water Requirements for Beef Cattle

Cattle water requirements vary by the type and condition of cattle and external conditions. A partial list of factors affecting the amount of water required by an individual animal might include:

  • Temperature
  • Type of cattle (bulls, bred cows, calves)
  • Forage and feed type
  • Amount of physical activity
  • Salt intake

Cattle must drink a certain amount of water daily in order to balance the amount of water they lose (through excretion, sweat, evaporation, lactation). The tables below present the observed voluntary water intake of cattle in the Great Plains. Water requirements will vary significantly by region -- cattle in warmer climates will consume significantly more water.

The following tables are reproduced from information provided by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. The data were originally published in the Great Plains Beef Cattle Feeding Handbook. Data were collected by Paul Guyer at the University of Nebraska; average temperatures listed in the tables reflect temperatures of the Great Plains.


Estimated Daily Water Intake for Breeding Stock

Month

Average
Temperature

Bulls

Cows
nursing
calves

Bred, dry
cows and
heifers


January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

(F)
36
40
50
64
73
78
90
88
78
68
52
38

GAL
7.0
8.0
8.6
10.5
12.0
13.0
19.0
18.0
13.0
11.5
9.0
7.5

GAL
11.0
11.5
12.5
15.5
17.0
17.5
16.5
16.5
17.5
16.5
13.0
11.0

GAL
6.0
6.0
6.5
8.0
9.0
10.0
14.5
14.0
10.0
8.5
6.5
6.0


Estimated Daily Water Intake for Growing Cattle

Month

Average
Temperature

400 lb.

600 lb.

800 lb.


January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

(F)
36
40
50
64
73
78
90
88
78
68
52
38

GAL
3.5
4.0
4.5
5.5
6.0
6.5
9.5
9.0
6.5
5.5
4.5
4.0

GAL
5.0
5.5
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.5
13.0
12.0
8.5
7.5
6.0
5.0

GAL
6.0
6.5
7.0
8.5
9.5
10.0
15.0
14.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0


Estimated Daily Water Intake for Finishing Cattle

Month

Average
Temperature

600 lb.

800 lb.

1000 lb.

1200 lb.


January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

(F)
36
40
50
64
73
78
90
88
78
68
52
38

GAL
5.5
6.0
6.5
8.0
9.0
9.5
14.5
14.0
9.5
8.5
6.5
6.0

GAL
7.0
7.5
8.0
9.5
11.0
12.0
17.5
17.0
12.0
10.0
8.0
7.0

GAL
8.5
9.0
9.5
11.0
13.0
14.0
20.5
20.0
14.0
12.0
10.0
8.5

GAL
9.5
10.0
10.5
12.5
14.5
16.0
23.0
22.5
16.0
14.0
10.5
9.5