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Water, an essential for all metabolic processes, is important for goats. The amount of water required depends on that needed for the maintenance of normal water balance and to provide for satisfactory levels of production. The body water content of the goat varies with age and amount of fat in the body, but it may be expected to exceed 60% of the body weight.
The water requirement may be met by water consumption (drinking), but other important sources include water contained in the feed ingested and metabolic water resulting from oxidation of feed enegry sources. The major avenues of water losses are those from urine, lactation, evaporation, and perspiration.
Factors affecting the water intake of goats are lactation level, environmental temperature, water content of the forage consumed, amount of exercise, and the salt and other minerals in the ration.
Goats are among the most efficient domestic animals in the use of water, approaching the camel in the low rate of water turnover per unit of body weight. They appear to be less subject to high temperature stress than wooled sheep or many breeds of cattle and require less water evaporation to control body temperature. They also have the ability to conserve water by reducing losses in urine and feces.
Lactating goats should always have a fresh, clean supply of water readily available. Nonlactating goats can get by with only a small amount of drinking water when given access to good, succulent range or pasture. However, lactating goats require from 1 to 4 gallons of water per day plus about 2 1/2 quarts of water for every quart of milk produced. If there is insufficient water during lactation, milk yileds will be depressed. Some water can be obtained from succulent feeds and from dew on the vegetation early in the morning.
Normally, goats consume 1.4 to 1.7 lb of water per 1 lb of dry matter, whereas cattle consume 2.1 lb of water per 1 lb of dry matter.
Wherever possible, water should be within 1/2 mile of the grazing area. A running stream is best. If a tank or trough is used, precautions should be taken to prevent the kids from getting into it and being unable to get out. Water troughs, bowls, tanks, or containers should be cleaned frequently to avoid a reduction in water consumption, as goats are more particular about water quality than some other animals.
Water should be no higher in salts than would be acceptable to the taste of the caretaker. Soluble salt content should be less than 3,000 ppm, but animals can become accustomed to water with salt levels as high as 6,000 ppm. Diarrhea can occur when goats are initially exposed to water with a high salt content, but they usually adjust to the water if the salt content is not extremely high. Goats tend to be more sensitive to certain salts (especially magnesium sulfate) than other animals.
1 1990; Feeds & Nutrition; M.E. Ensminger, J.E. Oldfield, W.W. Heinemann; p 934
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