With temperatures starting to consistently drop below freezing, it is important to make sure the water sources in your barn are in proper working order and not frozen.

Water is essential for milk production, growth, and health, while also being needed for proper rumen function, nutrient digestion and absorption. This is especially true when for every pound of milk a cow produces, five pounds of water are needed.

Additionally, cows drink 30 to 50% of daily water intake within an hour after milking. Ensuring water flow rate of 2 gallons/minute for every cow that drinks at one time is needed to ensure adequate water intake.

Concerned about low water intake? What to look for
Knowing whether your cows are drinking enough is critical and intake differs with age and lactation. There are several possible causes of low water intake and signs can include:

  • Firm, constipated manure
  • Low urine output
  • High packed-cell volume or hematocrit in blood
  • Considerable drops in milk production
  • Drinking of urine or pooled water

Reasons for low water intake can range from a lack of waterers to a lack of water supply to potential contaminants in the water. Taking a systematic approach to determine the reason behind limited water intake is beneficial and should start with evaluating the waterer. Determine water pressure to ensure it is at least 20 pounds to allow for multiple cows to drink simultaneously in a short time period. Also look for corroded valves, clogged pipes, and buildup of slime or scale. Check for stray voltage around the drinking device and around the surface that animals stand on to access water. Ensure waterers are 6 to 12 inches deep, have enough space for several animals to drink at once, and have a 2 inch space for every cow drinking around the perimeter. Consider social behaviors and the influence they have on a subordinate cow’s willingness to approach a waterer if a dominant cow is present. Although providing one waterer per 30 cow corresponds with recommendations, ensuring there is a secondary waterer within a pen will allow for reduced competition and social stress.

Read more from the Miner Institute Farm Report here.