Dear readers, it is necessary to begin by defining what water is, for some authors such as Carbajal and González (2012), it is a substance of great importance for life, since it has excellent properties thanks to its composition and structure. The same authors mention that it is a molecule formed by three atoms, one of oxygen and two of hydrogen, with polar bonds that allow establishing hydrogen bridges between adjacent molecules; in this sense and focusing on the animal area, González (1990), indicates that water is the most economical and abundant nutrient that can exist, and that it represents between 65-70% of the animal's body weight at birth and 90-95% of the total volume of its blood.
Regarding the properties of water, some researchers point out that the bonds in the water molecule are of great importance because they give water properties that correspond to greater molecular mass. Hence its high melting (solid to liquid state) and boiling (liquid to gaseous state) points, which are essential for water to be in a liquid state at Earth's temperature. In addition, Carbajal and González (2012) state that its high specific heat makes it an exceptional buffer and regulator of thermal changes, maintaining a constant body temperature.
On the other hand, McDonald, Edwards, Greenhalgh and Morgan (2002), point out that among the functions of water in animal nutrition are the following:
*It is a means of transport of the semi-digested material of the digestive tract.
Water balance of a bovine
*It lubricates and conditions the functioning of the joints.
*It cushions various organs in the body cavity.
*It maintains the turgor of the cells or shape of the cell structure.
The water balance or amount of water content of the animal organism can vary considerably from one animal to another depending on the age and fat content of the tissues presented by the animals. McDonald and collaborators (2002) mention that newborn animals contain between 750 and 800 gr/Kg of water and that it can go down to approximately 500 gr/Kg in adult animals with a large amount of fat.
The following is a schematic representation of the water balance of a typical mammal, according to Hafez and Dyer (cited by González, 1990):
It can be said that the regulation of the water balance consists of maintaining an adequate water balance (the net difference between water intake and water loss). In the previous figure, the water balance of a mammal can be observed in a schematic way. This balance refers to how water is distributed in the organism, from the entry of water into the stomach and the exchange that takes place when it passes into the blood plasma, interstitial fluids and intracellular fluids, where the percentage of water found in each space is reflected, in addition to the water exiting the organism through the feces, skin, milk and kidneys, thus achieving a water balance for the proper functioning of the organism.
Some authors such as Shimada (2009,) mention that among the water losses that occur in animal organisms are the following:
*Evaporation through the skin by sweating.
*Through urine, accompanied by mineral salts and urea as the most important component coming from protein degradation.
*Through feces, which depends on the animal's diet; in cattle it has an average of 80% water and in small ruminants sheep and goats 50%.
As previously mentioned, water is an extremely important resource in the ruminants' organism, but there are some factors that can influence the water consumption of an animal and according to Combellas (1998), they can be the following:
- The consumption of salts, such as sodium chloride or common salt, increases water consumption and excretion and can lead to dehydration.
- In extensive production systems, animals travel long distances, which affects the frequency and amount of water intake.
- High temperatures combined with high relative humidity increase water consumption.
As a specific example of what can happen in areas with high temperatures and humidity, there is part of the Southern Zone of Lake Maracaibo, where the relative humidity is very high and some authors point out that some producers want to produce high amounts of milk per day with breeds such as the Brown Swiss, the organism of this type of animals to produce large amounts of milk generate large amounts of heat and when they try to dissipate it to the environment they find that there is more heat than in their own body, so they reduce their milk production and consume more water.
Water quality is of utmost importance in nutrition and therefore in animal health. In September 2020, the nutriNews web portal mentioned the five criteria considered in the evaluation of water quality for livestock, which will be mentioned below:
- Organoleptic properties.
- Physico-chemical properties (pH, total dissolved solids, total dissolved oxygen).
- Presence of toxic compounds (heavy metals, toxic minerals, organophosphates and hydrocarbons).
- Presence of excess minerals or compounds (nitrate, sodium, sulfates and iron)
- Presence of bacteria
As for the presence of excess minerals or compounds such as nitrate contained in water, this could be used in the rumen of cattle as a source of nitrogen for bacterial protein synthesis, however, reduction to nitrite also occurs and when absorbed into the body, nitrite reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of hemoglobin and in severe cases results in asphyxia.
When there is a water restriction in the animal, this can cause negative effects on feed consumption. Gonzalez (1990), pointed out that animal productivity can be reduced and sometimes when there are severe restrictions, this can be reflected in rapid weight loss and the body becomes dehydrated.
Animals with low water availability do not consume enough dry feed until they drink enough water. Water intoxication has also been reported in young animals if there is a violent ingestion of high amounts of water.
Dear readers, as you have seen, water is one of the most important nutrients in cattle farming. Generally, when talking about nutrition, some people focus on other nutrients such as protein and fiber, but supplying or making available to the animals excellent quality water allows the physiological functions of the animals to be carried out perfectly.
- González, W. (1990). Alimentación animal. Editorial America: Venezuela.
- Shimada, A. (2010). Animal nutrition. Universidad del Zulia. Trillas: Mexico
- McDonald, P.; Edwards, RA.; Greenhalgh, JFD. And Morgan, CA. (2002). Animal nutrition. Editroial Acribia: Spain.
- Combellas, J. (1998). Feeding of the dual-purpose cow and her calves. Inlaca Foundation.
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