Advise from the expert! Give calves access to water directly after birth

Lisa Bachmann is one of our new CowSignals master trainers. She did research on water intake by calves. She found that calves, even with unlimited access to milk, drink 0.8 liters of water in the first two weeks.

Lisa's advise: give calves access to water directly after birth. This also stimulates food intake!

Lisa Bachmann works for Alta Germany. Before that she worked at the University of Leipzig.

Learn more about calf rearing in our video learning YoungStock Signals

Comments (10)

Marie Skavnes

This is a very important message! Water is essential both in hydration aspect, to develop the rumen and to make the calves familiar with water before they arrive in large groups - that they already know how to get their water supply. Great job:)

Nancy Charlton

can you clarify - are you giving calves water one hour after birth or you mean provide free choice access to water right from the beginning of life? Free choice access to water is important but feeding them what they want in milk is just as important. Calves on our automated feeders will drink anywhere from 6 to 10 litres per day starting on day 3 of life. too many farmers and advisors are afraid to feed a calf what it wants. This makes diarrhea worst and the calves will drink more water regardless. If you let calves drink ad lib on the Forster technique machine or program rations at 12 litres from the start then the water intake probably goes down. Some calves always drink some water.

Alex Nieuwland

calves need water 10 to 15% of their body weight, always feed ad. lib, at least after one week, don't forger milk has 12,5% dry matter, water is very important for rumen development (cement mixer) don't feed cold water in the winter, they won't drink enough and it takes energy to warm it up, don't you prefer hot chocolate milk in the winter??? and please, keep the water clean and fresh, waterers are sometimes a big bacterial disaster!!!


You state they drink 0.8L in 2 weeks which is only 57mls per day - could you clarify if you are meaning 0.8L PER DAY for 2 weeks?


It will be much helpful if some one can explain that how much should be given in one day,

Dr Mark Barnett

So many questions associated with this video.
Firstly, at what point postpartum did the calves start voluntarily consume water? 1h, 3h, 5h, 12h, ?. Was milk always provided or was it removed, leaving only water to be consumed. Was the water continuous at a similar rate over the 2 weeks or did the intake rise over the period? How much water was consumed in week 1 compared to week 2? Is growth and production affected, positively or negatively, by this small amount of water consumption (you have to admit, 0.8L over 2 weeks isn't much!).
I find it a little irresponsible to suggest changes without full explanation and making results open for peer assessment. Are these results published and open for review?

Joep Driessen

Hi thanks for your reaction! It is water intake PER DAY. 1,1 liter!
So no more excuses: just make it happen... Even when they drink unlimited milk for first 3 weeks, they still drink 0,8 liter per day. This will trigger concentrate intake, faster youth growth, less weaning stress later on etc...

Of course min 6-8 liters of milk per day is maybe more important. Preferably 3 feedings per day ( or more)


Is it safe it won't harm liver?

Dr.Rami Hamad

This is not something new. You are doing a great job but I think you need to visit Giant dairies in the Middle East as your advice needs to clearly point out to which environmental conditions each advice is suitable. Managements in each environment are totally different and legislations are different, thanks for being proactive as this is a constructive point of view not destructive.

Joep Driessen

Yousuf wrote:
Is it safe it won't harm liver?

Alcohol will harm livers, but plenty of water is good for the system!!

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