He said water deprivation, water intoxication and water quality can all play a role. These three may act independently, but often they are interrelated.

Water deprivation occurs when cattle cannot consume an adequate amount of water, McCollum said. Water is a nutrient just as protein, vitamins and minerals. And reduced water intake can result in reduced performance. Water deprivation can be fatal or lead to circumstances that can be fatal.

He said many people immediately associate this with a situation in which a well cannot pump enough water to keep up with cattle needs, the breakdown of a well or watering system, or a pond or creek drying up. These certainly are of great concern, but water deprivation also can occur in circumstances when it is perceived there is an adequate amount of water available.

McCollum said cattle behavior may lead to water deprivation because they develop preferences for grazing sites and loafing areas. If more than one watering point is available, they may develop a preferred watering location in a pasture.

So, a grazing area with multiple watering points may appear to have an adequate supply of water, he said. However, if cattle have a preferred site and that site breaks down, dries up or the water quality declines and reduces consumption, then water deprivation may occur.

Cattle with no familiarity of a grazing area also can suffer deprivation, McCollum said.