Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

How much water do farm animals need in this weather?

Key advice from Teagasc on keeping animals during extreme weather condtions

Sheep keeping an eye out for the Beast from the East. Pic Steve Humphreys
Sheep keeping an eye out for the Beast from the East. Pic Steve Humphreys
Sheep pictured in the snow. Pic COLIN ORIORDAN

As the current weather conditions continue to hit farms around the country, Teagasc has issued key advice on looking after animals.

Many farmers are dealing with frozen pipes and overcrowding in sheds and while the red alert warning continues many farmers will be days before they are back to normal farming conditions as the snow piles high in places and temperatures remain very low.

According to Teagasc, livestock will survive for a period of time without food but animals will show signs of dehydration if left longer than 24 hours without water.

With cattle in sheds, the provision of feed is generally not a problem as forage and meal is usually stored in the farmyard or nearby. The most vulnerable groups of animals to water shortage are milking cows, animals on high concentrate diets and animals fed hay, straw or other very dry feeds.

Milking cows must have access to drinking water at all times, it says and a cow producing 30 litres of milk and being fed a silage- based diet requires 75-90 litres (16-20 gallons) of water per day.

Finishing animals on high levels of dry feed, such as high concentrate diets have a big demand for water. These animals should always have free access to water. An animal consuming 10kg dry matter of dry feed will need 60 litres (13 gallons) of water daily.

Concentrate feeding levels should be reduced and animals put on wet silage fed to appetite, where an adequate water supply cannot be provided. These animals need to be introduced to meals gradually again once water supply is restored.

Reducing mineral intake may reduce the demand for water, particularly in sheep.

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If access of livestock to water has been restricted and then suddenly made available, over-drinking or water toxicity can cause health problems and even fatalities in extreme cases. Allow gradual access to water initially, when animals are extremely thirsty.

Frozen Water Pipes

Where there is an on-farm supply from a deep well, the deep submersible pump should not freeze but pipes and fittings from the pump to the pressure vessel (tank) and from there to the sheds need to be kept free of ice.

Have a thermostatically controlled fan heater in the pump-house.

Water pipes to the shed should be underground and any exposed pipes should be insulated.

In very low temperatures, pipes have frozen at the entrance to the shed and inside the shed in the supply to the troughs. In such situations, even when thawed out they are likely to freeze again. The supply pipe to the troughs could be extended on further out of the house to a tap. This tap can be left to run at a low rate to keep water flowing where there is an on-farm supply source. This option cannot be used if the water is supplied by the Local Authority or Group Scheme.

It may be necessary to bring in an alternative supply to fill water troughs or other containers in the feed passage. It may be possible to tap into the underground supply outside the shed and attach a hose to fill these water containers.

Make sure the connection to the underground supply is well-insulated after use and drain all the water from the connecting hose after filling the containers in the shed.

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