What are the Daily Water Intake Requirements for your Livestock?

Managing the daily water intake of your livestock is important. Here's some tips on how to keep your livestock healthy.

Water is essential to livestock’s health and well-being.  Today we’re going to look at the daily water intake requirements for your livestock.

Most animals are made up of 60%-70% water and require access to large volumes of safe drinking water every day. It is crucial to know the importance of daily water intake, how to recognize the signs of dehydration, and have a plan for the winter season.

Importance of Water

Water is essential to animal’s health. It hydrates, aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, helps spread hormones and nutrients throughout the body, and helps with eliminating waste. Daily access to clean water is required to keep animals at peak performance and health.

If your livestock is showing symptoms of dehydration, immediate attention is needed. 

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration in any animal is a bad sign and may indicate more serious conditions. Dehydrated horses and cattle can develop colic, heart failure, and kidney failure. Pigs and other swine show symptoms within one to two days. Chickens will display discomfort from lack of water almost immediately.

If an animal is displaying serious heart issues, colic, or severe lameness, call a vet immediately and keep the animal under supervision.

Here are the most common signs of dehydration:

Horses and Cattle

  • Loose skin (pinch test)
  • Sunken in eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Eye mucous membranes forming
  • Depression or Lethargy


  • Lack of appetite
  • Inability to drink
  • Constipation
  • Nervous pacing
  • Apparent blindness

Birds (fowl)

  • Wrinkled skin around the eyes
  • Excessive wing flapping
  • Outstretched wings
  • Diarrhea
  • Heavy panting and labored breathing

Preventing Dehydration

Fresh, and clean water source is essential to prevent dehydration in livestock. 

Purchase a water consumption meter to track daily water consumption. Record how much each animal drinks to detect any deviations from the normal water consumption. 

Each species of animal requires a different amount of water a day, from drinking as little as half a liter to needing over 60 gallons of water a day. A veterinarian can determine how much an animal needs through an exam and blood tests and create a custom plan to ensure long-term health.

Water intake requirements, by animal.

Amount per day
Horses 5 – 10 gallons
Cattle 5 – 25 (or 1 gal per 100 lbs.)
Sheep ½ – 5 gallons
Chickens ½ – 1 liter 
Pigs ½ – 1 ½ gallons
Llamas  2-3 gallons

Winter Preparation

It is important to have a plan for the colder months to prevent water sources from freezing completely. Some animals will also refuse water that is too cold. A high quality water bucket heater will prevent individual buckets of water from freezing or being too cold to drink.

If a farm has an automatic water system installed, it should have the necessary precautions to prevent the system from freezing. Here’s a checklist to help you get your waterer ready for winter. 


Water is the most essential part of any diet, the life-source for nearly every creature on the planet. Implementing a watering schedule can help prevent dehydration.

Investing in the proper equipment, understanding each animal’s water intake requirements, and having a backup plan are essential for a happy, healthy farm.