During the current warm weather being experienced on dairy farms, ensuring cows have access to water at all times is critical.

The increased temperatures result in increased water intakes by cows, with this often showing up weaknesses in farms’ water systems.

A cow’s water intake can increase by 30-50% in periods of high temperatures. A cow’s water consumption usually ranges 60-80L/day.

However with the current temperatures, water consumption could be over 90L/cow/day.

Water on dairy farms

Before cows are put into a paddocks, the water trough needs to be checked to ensure that it is working and cows will have access to water throughout the day.

It is not sufficient just to take a look and view water in the trough, as a cow can drink 14L water/minute. The drought in 2018 showed that many farms’ water supply was lagging behind, with cows emptying troughs.

When herding the cows, if there is water troughs along the roadway it is important to give them extra time to drink from these troughs.

Up to 50% of a cow’s water intake occurs three hours after milking, so having troughs in strategic locations will reduce the pressure on the trough in the paddock.

Water consumption

For a 100-cow herd you need a minimum flow rate of 1,200L/hour, or 20L/minute is advised. To determine if the flow rate in adequate you should complete the following steps.

How to check the flow rate:

  1. Mark the level of water in the drinker;
  2. Tie-up the ballcock and empty 20L from the drinker;
  3. Release the ballcock and measure how long it takes to fill to the mark;
  4. Divide 20L by the time taken to refill.

You should ensure that the flow rate is adequate for your herd size and cows are not emptying troughs and then waiting for them to be filled. This will cause cows to become stressed and lead to reduced yields.