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Water – the most essential nutrient

Wednesday 15 March 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


Water – the most essential nutrient
source: tearemanu FB

We have had a bit of rain, at last, after a month or so of hot weather. During that hot weather we had a group of British volunteers working at Te Are Manu. They were great; enthusiastic, talented and very knowledgeable. But not very heat tolerant.

They spent most days melting because of the humidity.  And they were constantly having to refill the water containers.  Because in hot weather people get thirsty.  Well, and it shouldn’t be a surprise, so do animals!

Water is essential for life.  Water makes up more than half of most animals’ bodies.  And water is constantly being lost from those bodies.  Water vapour in breathe, water in waste, water in milk for mothers with babies and water in sweat. 

So, we need to replace water.  We get our replacement water in a couple of ways.  There is water in our food, which we get access to as we digest our food.  But mostly, we drink.  Water in liquids like tea, coffee, soft drinks, juice, beer and even water.  Our bodies take that water,  and replenish what we have lost.  We know we need it because we get thirsty.  That is our trigger to drink.  It is a basic drive, like hunger making us eat.

The same processes happen in animals.  They get thirsty and need to drink.  All animals.  Even goats and cattle.  Yes, really.  Some animals, like goats and cows, are really good at taking water out of the grass they eat.  They are so good at this there are times when they seem to drink almost nothing.  But they need water.  A cow with a calf needs upwards of 100l of drinking water per day.  Goats and pigs are smaller so need less water but goats still need 5-10l per day.  And pigs need 10-25l.

Realistically, how many pigs, goats and cows get that much water in Rarotonga?  I have not done any research, but I would be surprised if it is all of them.  I would be surprised if it is most of them.  Pigs especially because they often use the water they get to make a mess and create a wallow.  They do that so they can cool off because they can’t sweat. 

When our animals get less water than they need, the first thing they do is eat less.  A 10% reduction in water intake can reduce food intake by 25%.  Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it?

So how can we give our animals water?  Bowls work, but they have to be wide and shallow, or they get knocked over.  Tanks nearby make carting water to and from much easier.  A garden hose and a nipple drinker work well for pigs.  Fixed troughs and reticulated water are perfect, if you can stop the leaks.  Lots of options.  Lots of problems.  But without a solution that works where you are your animals will suffer, especially in hot weather.  Like my British volunteer vets.