13 Easy Ways to Lower Water and Energy Usage on Your Dairy

Dairy cows drinking water. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Building trust in food begins with empowering farmers through one of the largest and most diverse conservation- and sustainability-focused public-private partnerships in our nation’s history: America’s Conservation Ag Movement. To find the latest news and resources related to the Movement, visit AgWeb.com/ACAM

Producers tend to believe that in order to become a sustainable dairy operation, they have to go out and spend large sums of money to make updates to their farm. While money is required for certain sustainability upgrades, there are plenty of environmentally friendly improvements that can be done at zero cost. 

In fact, simple yet effective sustainable advancements such as the practices listed below can help put more of your hard-earned dollars back into your pocket. If you are searching for new ways to become more sustainable on your farm, check out these 13 conservation practices that only take minutes to complete. 

Minimize Water Usage

Agriculture is the largest water user worldwide, accounting for 70% of total freshwater withdrawals on average, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Therefore, it is important that farmers conserve this natural resource whenever possible. The University of New Hampshire offers up these tips when it comes to conserving water on your dairy:


1. Fix leaks. A leaking pipe joint or dripping faucet contributes to the loss of 10 gallons per unit per day, on average.

2. Pay attention when filling tubs or tanks. A water tub that is accidentally left to run over while filling with a hose is responsible for the loss of 5 gallons per minute. Install a float with a shut-off.

3. Capture the pre-cooler water that chills down milk. Allowing it to run down the drain can waste between 20 and 30 gallons of water every minute the water is running though the cooler.

4. Divert wash water from a clean-in-place (CIP) system to a storage tank. Then reuse the water through a pump to wash down the parlor.

5. Tune up your wash system to assure the air injection system is working properly, and then check the settings to see that you are only using the amount of water needed for each wash cycle.

6. Cow cooling doesn’t need water spraying continuously; cycle the unit off and on in coordination with a fan system.

7. Rinse small equipment in a sink or bucket, rather than with running water.

8. Watch how much you flush. If you use a flush system to clean the alleyways in your freestall barn, consider cutting back the number of times you flush to help reduce water usage.

Don’t Be an Energy Hog

A major and often-overlooked overhead cost on the farm is utilities. With simple upgrades, you can dramatically reduce your energy usage and bills, according to farm energy auditor Chad Kloberdanz. He provides these five pointers when trying to conserve energy on the farm.

9. Clean fan blades and maintain belt tension on fans. This can increase existing fan efficiency by 10% or more. 

10. Keep an eye on what’s plugged in. Do you really need six batteries charging at once? 

11. Take the heat down a few degrees. Dropping the temperatures from 70°F to 65°F can save up to 21% on a heating bill.

12. Air leaks are a major cause of heat loss and high energy bills. Use caulk and weatherstripping on all of your shop’s door openings and windows. This can reduce heat loss up to 37%.

13. Hold off on replacing low-use and small motors, such as drills, grinders and welders. Typically, a motor needs to run 2,000 hours annually to justify a replacement.