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How to Calculate Water Storage Needs for Livestock

We have compiled the information in this article to help you estimate your water storage needs for stock farms. This cannot replace real world experience in a particular location and place, so should be taken into consideration as best estimate.

Water Requirements for Stock

The water consumption figures quoted below have a wide range depending upon the stock breed. When planning water supply requirements, you should also allow for evaporation losses and consumption by native animals, if applicable.

Stock Type Daily Water Consumption (L)*
Cattle Lactating cows (grassland)


Lactating cows (saltbush)


Young stock


Dry stock (400 kg)


Sheep Weaners


Adult (grassland)


Adult (saltbush)


Ewes with lambs


Horses Adult horses


Young horses


Lactating horses


Pigs Lactating sow


Dry sow and boar








Chickens Layer pullet (4–18 weeks)

100–200 per 1000 birds

Laying hens (50–90% production)

220–270 per 1000 birds

Broilers (1–2 weeks)

65–120 per 1000 birds

Broilers (3–4 weeks)

180–245 per 1000 birds

Broilers (5–8 weeks)

290–370 per 1000 birds

*per head unless otherwise stated


Water consumption figures may vary due to seasonal conditions, water and feed quality, sex, age and breed of stock. For example:

  • British breed sheep require about 20 per cent more water than Merino sheep under hot conditions.
  • Sheep can also drink 40% more during summer than winter.
  • In extreme temperatures sheep and cattle can consume up to 80% more water.
  • Pregnant and lactating animals can need up to double their normal water intake.
  • Animals that are old also have a higher water requirement compared with younger stock due to their greater mass and size.

Keep in mind the pasture and dietary intake of your stock has a large influence on their water requirements. If healthy green pastures can be provided, then such can meet most of your stock water needs. Sheep under such conditions may not even need to drink for many weeks.

Livestock Tolerance to Water Salinity

The desirable maximum concentration of salt in your water for healthy animal growth is:

  • 2,000 mg/L – poultry
  • 2,500 mg/L – dairy cattle
  • 4,000 mg/L – beef cattle, horses and pigs
  • 5,000 mg/L – sheep.

(Source: Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, 2000.)

The figures provided within this article are estimates based upon different Australian sources. For accurate estimates we recommend seeking out real life figures that closely match your own property, environmental conditions and your particular breeds.

With an accurate picture of your annual water requirements you are in a position to better understand the water storage and troughs necessary. You can also negotiate better pricing with your supplier when bulk ordering tanks or ordering full truck loads.

Clark Tanks work closely with many farmers to supply reliable water and feed storage solutions. Why not contact us today. We understand the needs of the rural community and can provide you with high quality farming products you can count on.


Download – How to Calculate Water Storage Needs for Livestock