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Daily Water Intake Increases 5 to 6 Gallons per Cow in Summer

Dairy Pipeline: May 1999

Gerald M. (Jerry) Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist, Milk Quality and Milking Management
Virginia Tech
(540) 231-4764

Water intakes during summer increase by 5-6 gallons per cow daily. Water temperatures of 70-86 F are preferred, and having waterers in shade may be desirable, but distance to waterers should be minimal. Water tanks should be cleaned weekly. Cows with restricted access to water should not have access to water in the holding pen just before milking but should be able to drink immediately after exiting the parlor so as to minimize risk of freezing point or cryoscope violation. The Blackwater River project in Franklin County demonstrated the effectiveness of reducing nonpoint source of water pollution when cattle had alternate water sources installed as BMPs because streams or ponds were fenced off. One herd installed a septic tank to capture water at a spring plus an underground pipe to a concrete watering trough with geotextile fabric and stone around the trough. Another herd used a ram pump to provide water to a watering trough at a height of 87 feet. Water then flowed by gravity to three additional troughs located in separate grazing areas. The overflow from the fourth trough returned to the stream. On a third cooperator farm, four 350 gallon heavy equipment tire troughs were installed as components of a rotational grazing system with 2,766 feet of 1-1/2 inch PVC pipe to a well. Each trough was surrounded by a 20' x 24' geotextile and crusher run stone area. Fencing decreased nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal coliform downstream and riparian areas improved naturally.

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