Providing enough water to stock is essential for high milk production. Clean water is also required in large quantities for cooling milk and washing the milking plant.

Water Requirements - A lack of trough water can cause milk production to be restricted in the summer. Thirsty cows will also lose condition, because they lose their appetite. Peak water flow rates needed on a dairy farm should be worked out on a per cow basis.

  • Dairy parlour 70 litres/cow per day
  • Troughs 70 litres/cow per day, available in a 5 hour period = 14 litres/cow/hour
  • Trough size Trough size is as important for access, rather than water storage. Troughs under fences allow only 1 /3 of the circumference on each side of the fence to be used. Boss cows can easily push heifers away in this situation. Troughs should therefore be sited within the paddock, rather than between paddocks under fence lines. Keeping troughs away from fence lines also greatly lessens the risk of electric shocks entering water from electric fencing systems. Stray electric shocks in water will very quickly discourage stock from drinking.

Mobs of over 400 cows need two troughs in the paddock. The trough size should be half the one hour flow demand For example: if 200 cows need 2,800 litres/hr, the trough size should be at least 1400 litres.

Troughs should be placed for easy stock access and with fertility transfer in mind. For example, if just one trough per paddock is required, place this two thirds along the paddock furtherest from the gateway. This will help counter the natural tendency for manure fertility to concentrate around gate ways. Likewise for a two trough paddock, place these equidistant along a paddock.

Water Quality

For new water sources, it is always prudent to have water tested by a water testing lab. This can potentially save many tens of thousands of dollars in water treatment or animal health. For existing water systems, the best test often the taste test – ie would you drink the trough water yourself? Unpalatable water can leave cows thirsty, even if there is plenty of flow available. Often all that is needed to improve water quality is to clean the troughs out from time to time, at least annually. Draining a trough with a squared mouthed 20 litre container is ideal, and there are certainly worst farming jobs to be had on a hots summers day! Water quality can be maintained longer by ensuring the water levels in troughs are maintained low enough so as to discourage birds from drinking. Otherwise they will thank you by leaving their calling card each time they fly off after having finished drinking!


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