The Effect of Waterer Color and Cleaning Frequency on Sheep Water Consumption

Hailey Jermolowicz
Undergraduate (Animal Sciences – Health)
Dr. Benjamin Wenner
Animal Sciences

Water is an essential nutrient across animal species, and livestock species must maintain hydration to promote their health. Water consumption, however, is influenced by many factors, and producers must practically control as many factors as possible. The objective of these experiments was to investigate two factors that producers can control: color of waterers and how frequently waterers are cleaned. Three waterers (5-gallon buckets) per pen (n=4) of sheep were utilized for both procedures. Waterer weights were recorded every 12 hours to determine the amount of water consumed. For color preference, a yellow, blue, and black waterer were placed in each pen, and it was hypothesized that sheep would prefer blue waterers compared to the other colors. For cleaning frequency preference, three waterers of identical color were placed in each pen. Different cleaning schedules were implemented on each waterer (Waterer 1: once daily; Waterer 2: once every fourth day; Waterer 3: once every seventh day), and the most frequently cleaned waterer was expected to be preferred. When designated to be cleaned, the waterer was emptied, removed of debris using a scrub brush, refilled, and returned to pens. Waterers were refilled every 12 hours regardless of cleaning. Analysis for color using SAS v9.4 and accounting for random effects of pen, time (AM/PM) and fixed effects of bucket position and color demonstrated that the sheep were twice as likely to drink from blue or yellow waterers (0.34 gal/head/day, 0.396 gal/head/day) compared to black (0.204 gal/head/day). Analysis for cleaning frequency preference accounting for fixed effects of day, treatment, treatment x day interaction and random effects of pen, week, position, and time (AM vs PM), with a repeated effect of day demonstrated that sheep prefer (P<0.0001) the waterer that was cleaned once per day (0.355 gal/head/day) compared to waterers cleaned every seventh day (0.105 gal/head/day). Sheep did not find waterers cleaned every fourth day (0.184 gal/head/day) less preferable than waterers cleaned daily (0.355 gal/head/day) nor more preferable than waterers cleaned every seventh day (0.105 gal/head/day). These results suggest that sheep consume more water from colored waterers and from waterers that are cleaned more frequently.