Winter Water

Winter officially arrived right around Christmas, bringing in several storms during the early part of the season. These heavy snowstorms create a host of new chores and fun new adventures. Between the time spent shoveling, plowing, repairing, sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing, winter is a busy season. While you are adventuring outside it is important to remember water for both you and your pets. Even though we have left the sweltering days of summer behind, water is just as crucial during these cold winter months.

Water needs will vary widely by animal; cats need around a cup a day, whereas cattle need between 14-30 gallons per day (depending on their use). There are several resources online that can help you determine your pet’s individual watering needs for this winter.

Once you have determined the amount of fresh, clean water needed each day, the real work begins. How do you deliver all that water while keeping it from freezing? If your watering location is near an electrical outlet, there are a host of heated buckets and tank heaters available that will keep your pet’s water just above freezing, but not hot, perfect for delivering a cool refreshing drink of water whenever it is needed. Take extra caution to avoid using heating lamps or other products that are not specifically intended for watering use, as they can pose both fire and electrical shock dangers. Limited access to an electrical supply is not as big of a hindrance as it once was; there are now several battery powered water heaters available that can be paired with a solar panel. 

If all else fails, you may need to haul fresh water for your pets and livestock several times a day to get them through the winter months. In her WSU Ag Monthly article Get Ready: Winter Livestock Management, Dr. Susan Kerr notes that counting on your livestock to eat snow for water is impractical. “With daily water requirements varying from three gallons (sheep) to 14 gallons (beef cattle, more for dairy), one can see that livestock would need to spend every waking hour eating snow to meet their requirements.” The same is true for dogs and cats; plus eating snow and ice can lower their body temperatures and create a need for greater amounts of feed and improved shelters to ensure they do not get too cold. Read more of Dr. Susan Kerr’s article at

Working closely with your veterinarian and your local feed store can ensure that you get the best winter water system set up to meet your individual pets’ needs. This work early in the season will make the next few months as easy as possible for you, so that you can spend more time out enjoying winter adventures and a well-earned cup of hot cocoa.

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