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Water supply important in dry weather


The current hot, dry grazing conditions will result in an increase in the intake of water by dairy cows. A jump in intake will put pressure on water systems where trough reserve or size is poor. George Ramsbottom, Teagasc Dairy Specialist, discuses the importance of water supply and recommendations

The current hot, dry grazing conditions will result in an increase in the intake of water by dairy cows.

Under normal Irish conditions we’d typically see intakes of around 30-50 litres of water per day when cows are at grass.

However when weather conditions are dry in summer, the dry matter content of the grass starts to decrease from the more typical 16-18% to over 20%. Indeed a grass sample taken yesterday, Monday 8th August, at Moorepark in warm, dry weather had a dry matter content of 23.1%.

While this might not seem to be a big increase, it can result in a rise in water intake. When combined with higher than average temperatures we can see water intakes increase to as much as 70 litres per day. Such a jump in intake will put pressure on water systems where trough reserve or size or flow rates are sub-optimal.

Teagasc recommendations

Normally Teagasc recommends the following:

  • A flow rate of 0.15 litres per minute per cow in the herd – so for a 100 cow herd, a flow rate of 15 litres per minute;
  • A trough reserve of approximately 7 litres per cow –for a herd of 100 cows, that’s a 700 litre trough size. This is needed to provide a reserve of water when cows first come to the trough to drink.
  • Adequate trough space for 10% of the herd to drink at one time – so for 10 cows that’s enough space for 10 cows (6 linear metres) to drink at the same time.

Check out the Teagasc publication: Dairy Farm Infrastructure Workbook (PDF)

You might also like to read this article - Article on Water Supply (PDF), while an older article, still many of the key principles haven’t changed.

 The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily. Find more on Teagasc Dairy here