National Drought Mitigation Center

Water Management

Livestock water supply must be carefully assessed before implementing rotation grazing plans.

Livestock Water Needs

Daily water intake plus evaporation losses may total 20-25 gallons per cow/calf pair during the summer.

When calculating livestock water supply needs, use the highest possible daily intake for your kind and class of livestock plus evaporation losses and four to seven days of storage capacity to account for high evaporation losses and heat stress during the summer.

You should know the flow rate of your wells or pipelines, and how many animals can be supported by each of your water sources, under adequate precipitation conditions as well as drought conditions. The quality of water from various sources must also be considered.

Reliable Water Sources

...the one thing that nobody should ever skimp on is water. If you’ve got water, as long as those cattle have water and it’s distributed in the right places, that’ll take and help your distribution. Fences are options, fences give you control. But water is the first key. If you build plenty of water the rest falls into place. ...We have windmills, we have solar, we have pipeline. Water’s what made us work. We don’t have any pasture that’s got less than 2 wells. We move the solar pump with the cattle. We have overkill because if that tank is full and that pipeline breaks down, I’ll have three days to fix it. And that’s if I didn’t have any other water sources.

What are your possible sources of water? Many producers advise having a back up source of water in case your primary water resource is insufficient or breaks down. Stock dams may not be reliable as the only sources of water during drought. Purchasing portable tanks may be an option, as might investing in a water development project installing pipelines or new wells.

Contents: Water Management