Evaluating proper water supply for dairy cattle

Sep 14, 2021


Next to oxygen, water is probably the most important nutrient for dairy cattle.  Research from the University of Illinois suggests water requirement of a high-producing dairy cow is greater than any other land-based creature due to milk being 87% water. Additionally, water is essential for maintenance of fluid & heat balancing, circulation of nutrients & excretion of urine, feces, and respiration. This adds up to as much as 80% total body water for the lactating cow. Intense care is logically given to specific nutrients in the ration, but provision of clean, free-choice drinking water receives considerably less respect. 
For every gallon of milk produced, four (4) gallons of water are required. A gallon of water weighs approximately 8.3 lbs. while a gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.6 lbs. Thus, as a rule of thumb, if a cow is producing 80 lbs. of milk, she will require approximately 37 gallons of water and an additional 20% during summer heat.
During times of low milk prices, many rations will be cut to reduce feed costs. While scrutiny of rations should always be practiced, milk price will still be above feed costs. Now is the time to ensure proper water intake and availability. Water generally will always be the lowest cost nutrient. Use the information below as a guide in evaluating proper water supply:
  • Provide no less than one foot of linear trough space per cow in return alleys/ breezeways off of milk parlor. It is normal and typical for cows to drink volumes of water immediately after milking.  Penn State University suggests enough water trough space to allow half of cows in parlor to be provided with two feet of linear trough space per cow upon exit of the parlor. This would mean if the parlor is a double-10, approximately 20 ft. of linear trough space.
  • It is superior to provide 2 water sources per group where cows are housed. Cows shouldn’t need to walk more than 50 ft. for water. Also, water should be in close proximity to feed bunk and should be protected from sunlight.
  • Providing open space around water is important. Crossover alleys in free-stall barns should allow a minimum width of 13 - 14 ft. to allow one foot for the width of the water trough and allow about 5 ft. for other cows to pass behind cows that are drinking.
  • Head clearance around water source should be no less than 2 ft. on every side — less may reduce optimal water consumption.
  • Understand the filling capacity of watering source. Cows should never have to wait for water.
  • Water MUST be clean.  Water sources should be routinely cleaned (daily or weekly).   Dirty water is unacceptable.
 
For more information visit or call your local Co-op!

More news

Sep 20,2021
Recovery time for horses will depend on the level of exercise, conditioning and the amount of muscle fatigue that has occurred. In many situations, a horse can be fully recovered within 24 to 48 hours.
Sep 07,2021
Equine metabolic disorders, including Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, Cushing’s Disease, and Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, have been “hot topics” in equine nutrition for more than a decade. Horses suffering from these disorders require diets low in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). The primary types of non-structural carbohydrates found in horse diets are sugars, found in forages and starches, and in grains. For most metabolic horses, the diet should contain an NSC level of 10 percent or less.
 
Aug 30,2021
Don’t let infectious diseases weaken your cattle’s reproductive efficiency. Infectious viral reproductive diseases can result in abortions, embryonic death, stillbirths, weak calves, and reduced pregnancy rates in beef cattle. These can add up to significant economic losses. Bacterial diseases caused by Leptospira spp. and Campylobacter fetus (Vibrio) can dramatically reduce a herd’s calving rate due to pregnancy loss and reproductive inefficiency.