• Healthy calves grow naturally

    Nutrition, hygiene and climate:
    the basis for problem-free rearing

Water supply of vital importance

Water is the most important feedstuff for young calves. A calf must therefore always have sufficient clean water at its disposal. Be aware that, if no – or insufficient – water is available, feed intake decreases considerably. Use clean potable water for your baby calves.



The body is made up of more than 80% water, and water plays a significant role in all important physiological processes. Water intake is very important for young animals, because they need more water per kilo live weight than older animals.

A calf’s daily water requirement is around 10% of its body weight. A calf needs one litre of water to develop new tissue and at least one litre for urine production. Calves generally loose 0.5 to 0.8 litres of fluid each day through manure. If the calf has diarrhoea, this can increase to two or three litres.

The amount of water a calf drinks depends on the ambient temperature. Up to 10oC, water intake will be 3.1 – 3.5 litres per kilo of digested dry feed (roughage/concentrates). If the temperature rises to 21oC, the water intake will increase by a third, up to 4.4 litres. At a temperature of 29oC, water intake could even reach 5.9 litres per kilo of dry feed.

Good water supply: higher feed intake, better growth

Research shows that in the period during which calf milk replacers are provided, the intake of hay and concentrates is higher if water is freely available. In addition, free water supply results in better rumen development. Sloten has investigated the effect of free water supply at its trial farm.

The results were as follows:


Group 1

unlimited fresh water

Group 2

no extra water

Birthweight (kg) 39,8 39,7
Weight at 10 weeks (kg) 87,4 76,1


Sprayfo yellow (kg)

Concentrates (kg)



52,1 (+60%)




Average daily gain (gr) 0-10 wk 680 (+31%) 520


Above mentioned research shows that a deficiency of water leads to unnecessary delays in growth, which is why calves always need clean and fresh water at their disposal. Calves need to be able to locate and access water easily, and water intake should be simple to check.

Water quality has to be good

Water quality is of fundamental importance. Poor quality has a negative influence on growth and health. In addition, the effect of any medication and other preparations administered via water will also decline if the quality of the water is poor. Poor water quality is also harmful to technical equipment; pipes may become obstructed and drinking machines break down.

Dutch legislation sets certain requirements in terms of water supply. Calves older than two weeks need sufficient fresh water of suitable quality at their disposal or another way of quenching their thirst. If the weather is warm, or an animal is sick, sufficient drinking water must always be available.

Be careful with spring water

In dairy breeding, spring water is also used instead of tap water. However, spring water is not always of good and consistent quality. Farmers using spring water are therefore advised to have the water quality tested four times a year.

Sprayfo advice; use tap water for young calves

Sprayfo always advises the use of tap water in calf rearing, if possible in your country. Any contamination risks with bacteria, moulds, yeasts, etc. should be avoided for these sensitive animals. Follow the principle of “only feed your baby calves the water you would drink yourself”.

Water is a very vital feedstuff. Investment in tap water for young claves often is only a few Euro-cents per calf. This investment is well spent.



Health risks on your farm?

Want to take the appropriate measures to prevent calf disease on your farm? Ask the Sprayfo rearing specialist in your region. 

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Prevention of disease in calves

Is there sufficient ventilation in your rearing pens? Can you improve the hygiene?
How good is your calves' immunity? Discuss your approach to disease prevention
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