Water consumption, performance, and health in calves: a review
The aim of this review is to summarize the current knowledge of drinking water for dairy calves. Calves receive water from milk or milk replacer (MR), from other feeds, and from free water. Water consumption to weaning is almost low. Opposing opinions are at the beginning of offering drinking water to calves. Some authors recommend providing water from the first day, some since the transition to artificial milk nutrition, or offering after weaning only. The water needed by pre-weaned dairy calves depends on the amount of milk or MR intake. The increased water in MR reduces the need for additional water to be fed as free water. Generally, when calves were fed supplemental water in addition to that provided in MR, they consumed more concentrate mixture and dry matter (DM) as compared with calves not given supplemental water. Water restriction can intensify the stress during heat temperatures period. However, according to recent research, restricting water intake (WI) during milk feeding period did not affect calf feed intake, growth, and health condition. Calves may be able to accumulate water in reserve to be used in periods of reduced water supply. However, we cannot recommend the WI just as part of the MR. We suggest that the water provided by the MR may not be sufficient to satisfy the needs of the animal. Drinking water has to be always at the disposal. Providing ad libitum intake of drinking water is the best approach. Finally, the exactly calves daily water consumptions are listed in a table.
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