Ensuring dairy cattle have an adequate supply of drinking water is an important nutrition consideration for dairy farmers.
Water supply and quality tips
A cow’s body is between 60 and 80 per cent water, while milk is 87 per cent water. Water is essential for regulation of body temperature, rumen fermentation, flow of feed through the digestive tract, nutrient absorption, metabolism and waste removal. It also plays a key structural and functional role in all cells and body fluids.
Stock water supply tips
- Ensure all cows, including permanently housed cows, have sufficient access to water day and night.
- Provide multiple water points in every paddock which will keep cows grazing longer in hot weather. If cows leave the paddock to get a drink, they often do not return to graze.
- In hot weather, allow up to 250 litres of water per cow per day – double their normal intake.
- Look at trough space – large volume concrete troughs help maintain supply during times of high demand and help keep drinking water cool.
- Install troughs along the sides of the dairy yard so cows must place their heads through the fence to drink.
- Milking cows usually drink after milking and can each consume up to 40 litres of water in two minutes. Position troughs on the exit side of the dairy.
- High water flow rates are essential to maintaining adequate supply for stock. Use 75-millimetre (three-inch) water pipes. Remember, there needs to be enough pressure to provide 20 litres of water per cow per hour.
- Maximise heat transfer by providing cool drinking water. When cows drink in hot weather, they cool down by transferring body heat to the water. The optimal drinking temperature is 15 degrees celsius to 20°C.
Cows confined to feedpad or shed tips
The guidelines below apply where cows are confined 24 hours a day to feed pads or sheds.
- At least one meter of trough drinking space should be provided for every 20 cows.
- Provide at least two separate water points for every group of cows and ensure plenty of space around each watering point
- Water systems should supply at least 20 litres per cow per hour.
- Each trough should be able to hold at least 200 to 300 litres of water with a minimum flow rate of 10 litres per minute.
- Trough volume can be reduced to about 100 litres if the flow rate is increased to 20 litres per minute.
- Troughs should be 600mm to 900 mm high.
- Water depth should be 150mm to 200mm to maintain cool temperatures and reduce debris accumulation.
Water quality tips
- Stock water points should be cleaned at least weekly to remove any feed residue or other contaminants.
- Water supplies should be tested for chemical and bacterial contamination.
- Information on water quality and water testing is available from government agencies.
- Saline water can impact animal health and the effluent management system.
- Stock water supplies should be analysed regularly to check the salinity levels.
- Ensure manure does not build-up around the base of troughs.