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Read our information sheets on how you can reduce water use both in and out of the dairy.

Saving water in dairies 

Under dry seasonal or drought conditions around Australia, many farmers are looking at options to reduce their water consumption in the dairy. For many this is a direct result of reduced access to water, for others it is an attempt to ensure water supplies are maintained for as long as possible.

In 2000, a survey of dairy farmers found the most efficient dairy sheds used under 2,000 litres of water per cow each year. At the other end of the scale, the most water used was 38,000 litres per cow each year -“ almost 20 times more than the best performers. The average was 9,600 litres per cow each year.

This large variation in water use in dairies indicates that there are opportunities to save water and costs on many farms. For example, re-using dairy water offers large benefits, such as recycling yard wash water or plate cooler water.  For more info, see below...

Water Saving Topics

Dairy farmers have identified many strategies to save water and the dairy industry learning packages also contain useful information. Details about many of these options to save water have been assembled in information sheets under the following headings.

  • Catch rain water from shed roof

    Catch Rain Water from Shed Roof

      

    Description

    Rainwater collected off the dairy shed roof is usually of good quality and the volume over the year can be substantial. Calculate this from the annual rainfall (mm) X roof surface area (M2) = litres collected per year.

    Most sheds could capture enough rainwater to supply the plant wash and / or plate cooler if combined with re-use systems. Size the storage tanks according to the expected period of days without rain and the daily water use. Tank costs generally vary from $3,000 - $8,000.

    Rainwater from the yard can be collected for re-use in yard wash. 

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Covered tanks with ˜initial flush diverters give the best quality water. Concrete is more thermally efficient if the water will be used for milk cooling.

    Pros and Cons

    Subsidies for tanks are available and reduces load on effluent system. Back-up supply is needed as rainfall varies substantially throughout year. Water quality can suffer in dusty environments. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Animal Health

    Can use rainwater to make up teat dip (preferably after it has passed through the hot water service or been boiled).

    Milk Quality

    Rainwater is often the cleanest water available on the farm and so is suited to plant washing.

    Environment

    Reduce size of effluent storage, especially if capture stormwater from yard.

  • Drink from troughs

    Drink from Troughs

    Description

    Water losses from drinking troughs are minimal when compared to losses from stock dams and channels.

    Investing in this infrastructure should be undertaken as a part of a whole farm plan.

    Water can be used to change the way cattle use the paddocks. Locate the troughs away from gates to minimise congestion. 

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Guidelines on storage and delivery systems are available from stockists. A doubling of pipe diameter gives four times the supply capacity.

    Place troughs on a bed of solid material to avoid them being undermined by stock.

    Pros and Cons

    Troughs give cleaner water and better control but there are additional costs in pumping and maintenance. Undersizing the infrastructure may limit options for future land use.

    Monitor water usage, it will help identify any leaks that may arise.

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Time taken to check and maintain system.

    Animal Health

    Less likely to have cows and calves getting bogged or standing in dams.

    Environment

    Reduced damage to channel banks and waterways although may get nutrient build up around troughs over time.

  • Dry wipe teats

    Dry Wipe Teats

      

    Description

    It is standard practice in many dairies in the US to use a gloved hand or dry paper towel to scrape off dried mud from all teats before attaching the clusters. Dry wiping is effective in removing dry flaky mud from teats but very wet or contaminated teats may need washing and then drying afterwards.

    Wrap fingers (paper towel) right around barrel and wipe down in spiral motion before attaching the clusters. If using paper towel - a separate piece is required for each teat to stop transferring bacteria between teats. 

    Tips on Getting the Best Results

    In Australia dry wiping is generally used strategically - on the visually dirty teats only.

    Pros and Cons

    Dry wiping saves some water and is a bit quicker than washing and then drying teats. There will be less cup-slip™ and cup-crawl™ as the clusters are attached to dry teats. Also may improve milk let down. However dry wiping is not effective in removing large amounts of wet mud or manure. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Saves time in the work routine.

    Animal Health

    Sediment and bacterial levels will increase if washing does not remove gross contamination.

  • Fix leading troughs

    Fix Leaking Troughs

      

    Description

    Slowly leaking troughs waste hundreds of litres per week, resulting in boggy areas and additional pumping costs.

    Float valve assemblies can be completely replaced for about $70.

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Damage to valves can be minimised with covers (on rectangular troughs) or baffles. Round troughs can be plumbed with the inlet in the bottom, removing the valve from harm'™s way. Monitor water usage, it will help identify any leaks that may arise.

    Troughs with overhanging lip keep cattle away from the base and reduce erosion at the base. 

    Pros and Cons

    Reduces muddy areas around troughs too but takes time to check the system. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Maintenance of troughs takes time but may get savings in better cow traffic and animal health.

    Animal Health

    Boggy areas on tracks slow cow traffic, may increase soiling of teats and predispose cows to lameness.

    Environment

    Troughs located in the yards will add load to the effluent.

    Water trough and dam

  • Reduce evaporation from water storages

    Reduce Evaporation

    Description

    Tanks and covered vessels provide the least losses from evaporation however less expensive systems have been developed to reduce evaporation from large farm storages.

    A commercially available chemical (Water$avrTM) can be added daily to water stores which will reduce evaporation by 30-50%. One kilogram ($12) will dose 1Ha of surface area for 3 days. The chemical is harmless and safe to drink and could be used in slow moving channels.

    Other systems are available include floating balls or other physical covers (E-vapCapTM) but these are more expensive. 

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Reduce wind action if possible or don't apply that day. Water$avrTM is a powder that dissolves and spreads rapidly over the water surface, requiring no specialised equipment. 

    Pros and Cons

    Easy to do, inexpensive although wind action breaks up the chemical monolayer requiring frequent reapplication. Limited application in cold windy weather. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Daily application required.

    Animal Health

    Nil - food grade chemical.

    Milk Quality

    Nil - food grade chemical.

    Environment

    Solid covers will reduce biological activity in storages.

  • Stop leakage from dams

    Reduce Evaporation

    Description

    Tanks and covered vessels provide the least losses from evaporation however less expensive systems have been developed to reduce evaporation from large farm storages.

    A commercially available chemical (Water$avrTM) can be added daily to water stores which will reduce evaporation by 30-50%. One kilogram ($12) will dose 1Ha of surface area for 3 days. The chemical is harmless and safe to drink and could be used in slow moving channels.

    Other systems are available include floating balls or other physical covers (E-vapCapTM) but these are more expensive. 

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Reduce wind action if possible or don't apply that day. Water$avrTM is a powder that dissolves and spreads rapidly over the water surface, requiring no specialised equipment. 

    Pros and Cons

    Easy to do, inexpensive although wind action breaks up the chemical monolayer requiring frequent reapplication. Limited application in cold windy weather. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Daily application required.

    Animal Health

    Nil - food grade chemical.

    Milk Quality

    Nil - food grade chemical.

    Environment

    Solid covers will reduce biological activity in storages.

  • Strategically wash teats

    Strategically Wash Teats

      

    Description

    Not really a water saving tip as strategically washing teats is '˜best practice'™ anyway. Wash only those cows teats that are visually dirty using a low pressure, directed stream of water.

    A hose that delivers water at approximately 40 litres/minute at low pressure (less than 20 psi) is ideal for washing away manure. Using¾™ hoses instead of the traditional ½ hoses is better suited to this purpose. This will make washing teats easier, quicker and use less water.

    Dry teats that are wet after washing with individual paper towels to minimise the spread of the bacteria that cause mastitis.

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    A teat cup liner placed over the hose nozzle can reduce pressure and keep the spray confined to the teats rather than the udder.

    Trigger nozzles specifically designed for teat washing give superior performance (use and reliability) compared to the cheap 'garden-type' varieties.

    Reducing the number of dirty teats in the first place is good management. Use emollient in teat dip to improve teat skin condition, fix up boggy areas, move cows along tracks and in the yard carefully to avoid splashing udders.

    Pros and Cons

    Saves time and is almost universally practiced in Australian dairies. Putting cups onto dry teats reduces cup crawl™ and so reduces milking time. 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Labour

    Saves time in the work routine.

    Animal Health

    Avoiding teat contamination will reduce environmental mastitis.

    Labour

    Sediment and bacterial levels will increase if washing does not remove gross contamination.

  • Use trigger nozzles on udder hoses

    Use Trigger Nozzles

      

    Description

    Spring loaded trigger nozzles on dropper hoses are simple to use and save water when washing udders and cleaning clusters.

    Trigger nozzles specifically designed for teat washing give a much superior performance (use and reliability) than the cheap 'garden type' varieties.

    Fix leaking nozzles“ they can waste a lot of water each day.

    Tips on Getting the Best Result

    Avoid high pressure water flow - use a cut off teat cup liner over the end of the nozzle to reduce pressure and give a tighter spray pattern.

    Reuse water from the plate cooler for cleaning udders it is already warm!

    Pros and Cons

    Readily available and inexpensive ($8 - $30 each). 

    Issues in Making it Happen

    Milk Quality

    Avoid wetting udder skin when washing teats. Dry teats before attaching clusters.

Major Initiatives

Focus Farms

Dairy Australia has established a network of Focus Farms to support farmer decision making.

DairyBase

DairyBase is a web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

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