15 September 1995

Make sure water is easily accessible…

ARE your high yielding dairy cows getting sufficient water?

Genus suggests not all are and warns cows will not walk great distances for water – sacrificing yield instead.

Cows averaging 35 litres of milk a day would need over 70 litres (15 gal) or over 115 litres (26gal) a cow a day in hot, dry weather.

Genuss Mark Woodall advises making drinking as easy and convenient as possible.

"Next to the gate nearest the farm may be the most convenient place to position a trough," he says. "But it is not necessarily ideal for the cows. Instead troughs should be sited at regular intervals, no more than 200m (650ft) apart, and around all the fields."

Mr Woodall cites US research which shows that 89% of cows prefer to drink warm water as opposed to chilled. So when using a plate cooler to cool milk, it makes sense to offer this water to the cows. This would be of particular benefit to cows averaging over 35 litres a day when cold water can slow rumen fermentation, and reduce intakes and milk yields.

He also cautions that cows are herding animals, and that behaviour, includes drinking. "Watch cows drink. When the trough is too small only a few cows will be able to drink at any one time," he says. "When finished they turn away, invariably taking cows that have not been drinking with them."

Water pressure must also be high enough for the tank to refill quickly after emptying. "If the next cows up to the trough find it empty, they will walk away without drinking," he says.

As a guide a 1.8m (5.9ft) oblong trough that is 450mm (18in) deep is sufficient for 30 cows. A round trough of 2m (6.5ft) diameter will hold about 2000 litres and serve about 100 cows.

"The the bigger the trough, the better. Round troughs have the advantage of allowing more cows to drink from it simultaneously," he says.