Getting water to each paddock in the pasture is one of the most important aspects of making a grazing system work in a dairy operation. Since milk is over 95% water, the amount of water a cow consumes has a direct effect on the amount of milk she produces. Water availability and its location influence greatly where cows graze and where they rest.
Naturally, and regardless of the type of grazing system, cows will continue to graze the section of a pasture close to the water supply. However, you can change where the animals spend their time grazing and where they deposit their manure and urine simply by moving the watering location. Thus more watering locations mean manure and urine is more uniformly spread across the pasture.
The distance cows walk to the watering location dictates if they will travel to drink individually or in group. If the distance is 900 feet or more, cows will walk to drink in group. In intensively grazed small pastures cows walk short distances as individuals, a slower flow rate and smaller tank size will work. In this case you need a tank that allows 2% to 4% of the animals to drink at one time and flow rate that provides total daily needs in four hours or less of pumping using full-flow values to refill the tank. In a large continuously grazed pasture where cows walk to the watering location as a herd or flock, you need a large tank that holds at least ¼ of the daily water requirement and allows 5% to 10% of the animals to drink at one time.
Providing water as the cows leave the milking parlor encourages them to clutter outside the parlor and not to return to the pasture as quickly. With watering in the pasture, this reduces the traffic on the lanes and keeps most of the manure and urine in the pasture instead of on the lanes and cows start grazing immediately.
For more information and assistance with watering systems and dairy modernization please contact me at (920) 674–7442 or via email [email protected].