The Importance of Water

“Calves get all the water they need in their milk replacer.”

“Calves only need water when it’s really hot out.”

“I don’t water calves in the winter because it just freezes”

“I only offer water (and electrolytes) when a calf has scours.”

ALL age calves need water ALL the time!


A majority of calves will end up with scours at some point in their life. When a calf has scours, it is losing hydration very quickly. If the only chance they have to getting an extra drink is when you see that they are scouring, it might be too late. Their milk meal might be enough water for a healthy calf, but any health challenge will change that quickly.

Even though it might seem obvious to give calves water when it is hot out, it is less obvious to water calves when it is cold. Cold weather is also typically dry weather, which can dehydrate as well!

The last reason to offer water is starter intake. Water and starter intake go hand in hand. The more water a calf drinks, the more starter they will eat, and visa-versa.

Here are a few ways to manage your watering program:

Always offer warm water. Calves of any age will go after water that is similar in temperature to their milk. Warm water will also stay warm for a longer amount of time in the winter, so water will be more available to the calf.

Make sure the water is clean. Calves don’t want anything to do with dirty/milky water. You can also offer a low level of electrolytes in the water. This will help with hydration, especially for the scouring calf. Make sure you chose the right electrolyte for the application! Electrolytes will also encourage water intake to help a calf get through a scour period without extra treatment. Anything you can do to get extra water in a calf is worth the time.

It may seem unnecessary, or just extra work but it will help with many challenges you might have with your calves. You will also have healthier and bigger calves in the long run.

This is what we do:

When we finish feeding milk we immediately follow with 100*F water with enough electrolyte in the water to make it smell a little bit sweet.

– NO – we don’t wait or worry about it mixing with the milk in their stomach, it has never been a problem in the past, and water intake will always overrule any other potential concerns.

Almost every calf will take a drink, many will end up drinking 1/2-1 gallon per feeding. We use the left over water to rinse the buckets out and hang to dry.

We then follow behind the rinse with DK-ll to clean the buckets between feedings.

Each group pen has an automatic water cup with water that is cleaned 5x per day, so there is ALWAYS clean, fresh water available.

Each individual pen gets to keep their bucket for the whole day to drink water free choice. If you have any questions or want to implement a successful watering plan please comment or message me!

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