Winter can make the most mundane tasks challenging. This reality is clearly illustrated when it comes to watering animals. For as long as man has worked alongside horse and livestock, watering methods and their seasonal variations have persisted.
As fate would have it, when diving temperatures make it most difficult to provide clean, fresh water, this is a time when fresh clean water is critical to good health.
During cold months animals digestion convert feeds into energy that results in body heat. This process is critical to winter survival. The key to feed consumption in cold weather is hydration.
Common Causes of Dehydration in Winter:
Icy water too cold to consume comfortably
Water source is completely frozen over
Animals left to survive on snow and ice
Water is too hot due to improper adjustment on heater
Water has electric current due to malfunctioning heating element
Cold water is a little bit of a hidden cause of dehydration. Not everyone is aware that studies prove increasing water temperature from just above freezing to 40°- 65° Fahrenheit, will increase the amount of water consumed by 40%.
That’s right, 40%! That’s A LOT. Inadequate water intake for sustained periods has two immediate impacts that are the starting point of bigger problems:
- Decreased feed intake; This will have a direct impact on the animal’s ability to maintain body weight as well as decrease their ability to consume enough feed/energy to tolerate the cold weather.
- Impaction colic; This risk is more widely discussed, and possibly more harmful. If a horse doesn’t consume enough water either because it’s frozen or it’s to cold for them to drink comfortably, the risk of impaction colic rises sharply. On top of that, even if the horse does drink a proper amount of water; water that is too cold has a negative impact on the digestive tract and causes disturbances during digestion and absorption.
Consuming 40% less water over the course of several months because it’s too cold is clearly not good for any animal. So what can we do about it? We can use our common sense. As best you are able to, provide fresh, clean water to your animals as much as possible.
A fair rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t be interested in consuming the water yourself, chances are your animals aren’t that interested either.