Monday, 8 December 2014

Brain Freeze part 2

Chrissy, commented  on my last post about the brain freeze:

"C'mon, you seriously don't provide some sort of liquid water to all of your animals? Creek, pond, anything?"

I would like to elaborate on this comment.

We live in what is called a Sub Arctic Climate.
Our winters, if we are lucky last for 5-6 months,
if unlucky we can see up to 8 months of cold and snow.
We have abundant snow during winter.

Normal 4ft field fence.

We have experienced temperatures as low as, -52.2C, that is -62F.
The temperatures rarely go above freezing point during the winter.

All lakes, ponds, pools, creeks and rivers freeze over.
The ice thickness can vary from 1 - 5 feet thick on lakes.
We build ice fishing villages on the lakes, drive our one ton pick ups on the lakes and even make highways over frozen lakes to transport big heavy oilfield equipment further north.

No where, on the landscape is flowing/liquid water. All wildlife has to survive on snow during our winters.

Some of the areas, where our animals are fed in the winter, only have water pools available in the summer,
Once these freeze, the stock transitions to snow.

We have never noticed any disadvantage to them eating snow as a water source.
We have noticed that the animals prefer to eat snow than walk to a heated stock waterer.
At the start of winter, we do chop holes in the ice of ponds to allow the stock to drink until sufficient snow is available.

We do move our animals as soon as they calve or lamb to an area that does have access to liquid water, through heated stock-waterers.
Any animals that are compromised in any way, weaker, thinner, too young are moved to the barn where they have access to water.
Animals, who are on a high dry matter diet ( high grain content) also are in areas where water is available.

Our dogs are offered liquid water, however as winter progresses they stop entirely with drinking liquid water, they only want to eat snow.
Also with the dogs, should any be injured, weak, or compromised, these dogs are also placed in our barn, where they have access to water in a liquid form.

Of course, in the summer the animals have access to liquid water, or when the snow melts and none is available for the stock, we provide water for them.

There have been numerous tests/research done on whether or not,
 stock should and can be watered on snow.

Here are some links and some conclusions:

Without any apparent stress, dry pregnant ewes and
beef cows can use clean snow as their sole source of
water. This watering alternative may be used for an
extended period of time or when there is a disruption
of the normal winter water supply. Clean snow is a
safe and economical option as a source of water for
Ontario sheep flocks and beef cow herds.

• Research shows that snow can be the sole source of water
for cattle without affecting performance negatively.
• Maintaining the health and welfare of snow fed cattle
should be a top priority.
• It is essential that snow be available in sufficient quantity
and in a form that is easily accessible by cattle.
• Management practices must be in place to ensure good
nutrition at all times. A backup watering plan is also
essential to deal with the scenario of snow becoming
unavailable at any time throughout the winter

Snow as a Water Source

  • After a short adaptation period, pregnant beef cows will consume snow in amounts equivalent to the water intake of cows receiving liquid water. Through extensive testing in the early 1980's, the University of Alberta found insignificant differences in cow performance or body stress levels when asked to eat snow as their sole water source.
  • Wintering beef cows are able to consume snow as their sole water source given that the snow is in a form that the cows can easily eat. The snow must be soft and friable so that the cows can lick a significant quantity into their mouths for melting.
  • Once cows are used to consuming snow as their sole water source, they will consume small amounts of snow throughout the day during their free time. Cows can be seen licking snow before, during and after their primary feeding times.
  • Although it takes ten times the amount of energy to melt a gram of snow from it's solid state to it's liquid state compared to heating the similar quantity of a liquid one degree Celsius, the key to energy use difference is found in the rate of consumption. Cows eating snow take all day to do so. Cows drinking cold trough water will consume their daily needs within minutes.
  • Because of the slow and ongoing process of eating and melting snow, cows in effect use their waste heat to melt their snow. Because the melting process is such a slow process, the cow's body temperature never drops below it's critical point. Hence, the body's metabolism never needs to kick in to raise it's temperature as it does when a cow drinks large quantities of near freezing water from a waterer.
  • The best indicator of whether a herd is getting enough water from melting snow is to monitor feed consumption. As long as feed consumption is adequate and consistent from day to day, the cows are getting enough water from the snow. Should feed consumption drastically drop over a short time period, water shortage may be the cause.
  • The biggest stress for cattle eating snow is the transition period. Cattle that have never needed to eat snow and have only consumed water will vocalize to show their discontent. Following a day or two of discontent, the herd soon learns from the early learners that snow can be licked with positive results.
  • Once cattle have learned to eat snow, the transition period is much shorter. Eventually cattle will eat snow without little discontent.
  • Once cattle are accustomed to eating snow, they will often stay out in the fields where the feed is placed rather than walk home for water. The observation is that animals find it easier to eat snow rather that expend the energy to walk home to drink water.
Fact Sheets

Beef Cattle Consuming Snow as a Source of Water - in PDF format

Overwintering dairy cattle: animal health issues - in PDF format

Replacing Water with Clean Snow for Ewes and Beef Cows - in PDF format

Winter outdoor livestock watering: It's all about the energy choices - in PDF format

Research Papers

Average daily gain and water intake in growing beef calves offered snow as a water source - in PDF format

Effects of ingestion of warm, cold and frozen water on heat balance in cattle - in PDF format

Effect of snow as a water source on beef cows and their calf production - in PDF format

Ingestion of snow by cattle - in PDF format

Is Snow a Sufficient Source of Water for Horses kept Outdoors in Water? A Case Report - in PDF format

Lactation and water turnover in ewes relying on snow as their water source - in PDF format

Liveweight and behavioural response in cattle ingesting snow as their water source - in PDF format

Liveweight of individually fed beef cows receiving snow or liquid water - in PDF format

Response of lactating ewes to snow as a source of water - in PDF format

The performance of pregnant beef cows relying on snow as a water source - in PDF format

Will cows eat snow? - in PDF format

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