Drinking frequency effects on the performance of cattle: a systematic review
There is evidence to suggest that the distance cattle graze from water influences their drinking behaviour (Low et al., 1978; Freer et al., 2007). Cattle in small paddocks (<15 ha) have been observed to drink multiple times per day. Lactating dairy cows (Bos taurus) in temperate climates drink 2–4 times per day, with an upper limit of 6–11 drinks per day (Castle et al., 1950; Campbell and Munford, 1959; Chiy et al., 1993). Similarly, growing B. taurus beef cattle in cool climates (temperate and continental) drink on average 4–7 times per day with a range of 3–11 drinks per day (Coimbra et al., 2010; Lardner et al., 2013). Bos indicus steers in a tropical climate have been reported to drink 2.6 times per day (Lampkin and Quarterman, 1962). However, B. taurus and B. taurus‐crossbred cows (lactating and dry) in large paddocks in arid climates, with areas of 23–300 km2 served by one water point, have been observed to drink on average 1–2.5 times per day, with an upper limit of 3–4 drinks per day (Schmidt, 1969; Low et al., 1981; Rouda et al., 1994). Additionally, Low et al. (1978) recognised that most cattle in the herd (80%) travelled to the water point every day to drink when grazing up to 6.5 km from water, but when grazing at greater distances a large proportion of the herd (70%) only travelled to water to drink every second, third or fourth day.
Drinking frequency may have important consequences on the water intake, feed intake and performance attributes of cattle. Relationships between water deprivation, volumetric restriction and cattle performance are established in the literature. For example, total deprivation of water for 72 h reduces feed intake and live weight gain in beef cattle (Ahmed and El Hadi, 1996; Scharf et al., 2008) and is a cause for concern during transportation (Hogan et al., 2007; Werner et al., 2013). Restricting the volume of water ingested, without totally depriving the animals of water, similarly reduces feed intake and live weight gain in cattle and milk yield in dairy cows (Balch et al., 1953; Utley et al., 1970; Little et al., 1976; Silanikove, 1992). There is some literature that reports the frequency that grazing cattle have been allowed access to water.