As the drought continues and temperatures remain above normal, cattle water is becoming a greater concern, especially after recent reports of cattle deaths in or around watering points, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, said the location of the deceased cattle suggests the deaths could be associated with water consumption.

“Because little or no forage growth has occurred this year, the forage contains very low amounts of water,” McCollum said. “An average cow grazing green forage normally consumes about 30 to 70 pounds of water daily, or about 3.5 to 8.4 gallons, from the forage she grazes.

“This year, as a result of no forage growth and a relatively low intake of dry forage, daily water consumption from grazed forage is probably around 3 to 5 pounds or 0.4 to 0.6 gallons.”

Couple low water intake from forage with the higher, stressful temperatures this summer, McCollum said, and intake of water from drinking sources takes on greater importance than "normal" years or years with high temperatures but with green forage.

“The lack of water from forage is more important than we credit,” he said.

“How many people would think of going out to work for a few hours without a jug of water to drink from periodically? The water in the grazed forage is the cow's ‘jug of water’ that rehydrates her while she is out on the range or pasture.”

High temperatures alone may not a problem, but hot temperatures in combination with lack of green grass as is the case this year, is a problem, McCollum said.

“The risk of heat stress is greater because we have high ambient temperatures combined with dry dead forage,” McCollum said. “The cow's ‘jug of water’ is relatively empty this year, and the risk of heat stress and water-related problems is greater.”