Water in the Winter

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Water in Winter


Water is the most important dietary source for all living creatures; for without ample water, a living being cannot survive. This necessity increases with the individual’s environment, stage of life, and stage of production.


All living beings need water. This includes all livestock: cattle, horses, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, etc. Due to this, a producer needs to provide their livestock with unlimited fresh water at all times.


Since most livestock live in an outdoor environment, their water requirements increase with environmental changes, especially in winter. Depending on the livestock’s operation, the animal’s requirements might also increase due to their stage of production or life. During winter, many livestock are pregnant or nursing, increasing their needs drastically to fulfill both their requirements of both Mom and baby. In response to this increase in demand and the cold weather, producers must provide water that is unlimited, clean, and unfrozen. Frozen water is not only inaccessible by livestock but also undesirable. This also includes water that is near-freezing temperatures. When water is at these cold temperatures, animals will only drink what is needed to survive because of the uncomfortable nature of drinking cold water. For some animals, they will refrain from drinking the water and become dehydrated. To avoid this, the water needs to be heated some to increase the animal’s desirability and overall comfort.


There are multiple methods that can be utilized for providing unfrozen, unlimited, clean water to livestock. Common methods include large electrically heated water troughs, water troughs with a heating element inserted, and continuous running water troughs. The most economical and labor-saving method for most operations is utilizing their typical water trough while including a drop-in heating element. This method does require an electrical source but is less time consuming and more efficient than breaking the ice. In addition, this method enables the animals to access warm water that is more desirable than water that is frozen or at nearly frozen temperatures, prompting the animal to drink adequate amounts of water.

Red and white cow

Please feel free to contact Michelle South, Area Extension Agent at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Avery County Center at (828) 733-8270 with any questions.