Drinking frequency effects on the performance of cattle: a systematic review

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Cattle require water for physiological processes associated with maintenance, growth, fattening, pregnancy and lactation (Agricultural Research Council [ARC], 1980; National Research Council [NRC], 1996). In intensive production systems such as dairying, feedlots and small grazing enterprises, cattle are kept in close proximity to water so that water is freely available at all times (ARC, 1980; Harrington, 1980). In extensive grazing systems, water is not freely available to cattle at all times (e.g. >400 km2, McLean et al., 2013; Freer et al., 2007). Cattle have a tendency to concentrate their grazing around water points but the distance cattle travel from water to graze varies according to forage availability. Cattle in paddocks >150 km2 in size in the arid rangelands of Australia have been observed to preferentially graze an average distance of 3 km from water and up to 10 km to access preferred grazing areas (Low et al., 1978). When the forage around water points is sparse, cattle may travel further (6–13 km) from water to graze (Schmidt, 1969; Low et al., 1978). The furthest cattle have been observed from the nearest water point is 14–24 km (Low et al., 1978).
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.
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