An abundant, high-quality water supply is the most important nutrient for lactating cows, says Dave Beede, professor of dairy nutrition at Michigan State University. Providing enough sources of water, enough space around that water and uninhibited access to it all day, every day of the year can’t be stressed enough.

For lactating cow groups, provide at least 2 inches of linear space per cow, Beede said at the 2012 Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference.

“They should never have to walk more than 50 feet to get a drink of water,” he said. Also be sure to put it close to the feed, as this will increase water intake.