ASAE Conference Proceeding
This is not a peer-reviewed article.
Effect of Location of Water Access on Water Consumption of Lactating Cows Housed in 2- and 4-row Freestall Buildings
M.J. Brouk, J.P. Harner, III, John F. Smith
Pp. 196-204 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference, (Fort Worth, Texas, USA), ed. K. A. Janni. ,Pub. date 29 January 2003 . ASAE Pub #701P0203
Water consumption was measured on three Holstein dairies in north central Kansas. On average, drinking water requirements were between 3 and 4 kgs of water per kg of milk. Refilling water tanks after tipping increased the water demands in the housing area by 6 percent per refill. Cows drank more water from the water troughs located in the center alley and then the pen exit as compared to the troughs located at the far end of the pens. In pens that were over 122 m long, cows consumed 72 percent of the pen water requirements from the water troughs located from the center to the pen exit. In addition, cows also drank more water from watering troughs located near the feed alley as compared to the cow alley. Placing additional water troughs along the outside walls during the summer months did influence the drinking patterns on the cows.KEYWORDS. Water, dairy, freestalls, housing, Holstein
Minimum water requirements for meeting the intake water needs of lactating cows, milk parlor usage and other needs of a functioning dairy range from 150 to 190 liters per cow per day (L/c-dy) (Allen el al., 1974, Bailey et al., 1993, Beede 1992, MWPS-7, 1997). Lactating cows drink from 110 to 190 L/c-dy. Drinking water satisfies 80 to 90 percent of the daily water requirements of a dairy cow (Ishler, 1998). Brouk et al. (2001) found water requirements per Holstein cow ranged from 110 to 150 L/c-d while Jersey’s was less than 95 L/c-d in the freestall housing area. Their measurements included the water required to refill water troughs and meet drinking demands but not for heat abatement.
Reinemann and Springman (1992) determined the drinking water requirements based on 4.5 to 5 kgs of water per kg of milk. Data collected during a study comparing the impact of fiber by Dado and Allen (1995) indicated cows drink about 5.7 L of water per trip to a watering trough at a rate 0.08 liters per second (Lps). They found a cow spent about 12 to 16 minutes per day drinking water (Dado and Allen, 1995). Their measured free water intakes were lower than other studies.
Anderrson et al. (1994) in Sweden studied the impact of flow rate on water intake using cups. The flow rates examined were 0.03, 0.09 and 0.2 Lps. Time spent drinking decreased from 37 to 11 to 7 minutes per day as the flow rate increased. They observed cows drank from the cups 40, 28 and 30 times per day depending on the flow rate. The actual water drank increased from 77 to 83 to 88 L/c-d as the flow rate increased, however, there was no increase in milk yield or dry matter intake. Submissive cows drank 7% less water than a dominant cow. In another European study, water troughs were compared to water cups (Castle and Thomas, 1975). Cows spent only 2 min/dy drinking from water troughs while they were at water cups 7.8 min./dy. Drinking rate range from 0.08 to 0.41 Lps per cow with lower rates being consumed from the water cups.
Zuagg (1989) summarized the daily water usage on the five dairies in Arizona. Early lactating cows drank between 110 and 132 L/c-dy while cows in late lactation drank 95 to 113 L/c-dy. This was a function of milk production and feed intake. Water consumption was reduced below 76 L/c-dy during the dry cow period on all of the farms. Water usage on a dairy varied from 300 to 900 L/c-dy. Dairies raising replacement heifers and using calf barns utilized more than 756 L/c-dy.
Brouk et al. (2001) showed difference in water consumption based on the location of the water trough in a freestall building. More water was consumed at the center cross alleys than end cross alleys. McFarland et al. (1989) reported similar results in an earlier study. Brouk et al. (2001) found cows consumed about 8 percent of their daily water needs at watering troughs located near the parlor exit. In addition, daily refilling water troughs after tipping consumed 10 to 15 percent of the daily water requirements for water troughs in the housing area.
The objective of this study was to determine the daily water demands in the housing area and the impact of water trough location in a freestall.
Water meters were installed on all water troughs in four pens, on three dairies in north central Kansas. Meters were read approximately every two weeks. The water usage data included the amount of water used to refill the water troughs after dumping. Milk production and feed fed and refusal were measured daily at the dairy. Fans and a feedline sprinkler system were used for heat abatement on each dairy. Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the location of the water troughs on dairies 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
Dairy 1 housed Holstein cows in a four-row freestall barn with each pen containing 84 freestalls and a stocking density of 110 percent. The 378 L troughs were dumped once a day as the cows were being milked. Walking distance from the back of the milk parlor to the housing area was less than 30 m. The water troughs allowed approximately 4 cm of linear space per cow.
Figure 2 shows the water trough location in the 2-row freestall facility at dairy 2. Water troughs were located near the end of the exit lane and were equipped with water meters. Cows had to walk 120 to 150 m from the milk parlor the freestall buildings. Each freestall had 108 freestalls and was stocked at 100 percent capacity. Group sizes ranged from 107 to 97 cows over the course of the eleven-week study. On this farm, additional summertime water space was provided on the outside walls on both sides of the center crossover. Total water trough space was about 10 linear cm per cow but the access points were increased relative to the barn above.
Figure 3 shows the layout of the water trough in a 128-m two-row freestall facility at dairy 3. This facility had five crossovers per pen. Each of the cross alleys has two separate water troughs with one being near the feed alley and the other near the cow (back) alley. The two water troughs are located on the same side of the crossover. The walking distance between water troughs was approximately 37 m Pens contained between 150 and 175 cattle each and provided about 14 cm of water trough space per cow. Walking distance from the pen exit to the parlor varied from 15 to 61 m.
Drinking Water Requirements
Table 1 shows the average daily water usage per cow collected during summer, 2001 in the 4-row freestall building located on dairy 1. There was a significant difference (p<0.01) in water consumption per day between the pens. The average consumption per cow ranged from 132.2 to 170.9 L/c-dy. The ratio of water consumption per milk production ranged from 3.6 to 5.4 kgs of water per kg of milk while average milk production per pen ranged from 123 to 216 kgs/c-dy. There were more differences in the ratio of water to milk production than water to feed consumption. Table 2 shows the average water consumption at the different troughs in each of the pens. Over 38% of the water was consumed from the water trough located in the center cross alley (Figure 4). The water trough located farthest from the travel lane to the milk parlor had lower usage. The cows drank 8 percent more water from the water trough located in the end cross alley near the milk parlor than the far water trough. This trough was the first access to water upon returning from the parlor and may explain part of the difference in usage. Refilling the water trough after tipping represented approximately 6 percent (Figure 4) of the water needs in a pen.
Table 3 shows the daily water usage for the 2-row freestall buildings located on dairy 2. There was statistical difference (p<0.01) in the water consumption between the pens. Water consumption ranged from 106.2 to 91.5 L/c-dy with water to milk ratio ranging from 2.6 to 3.5. These values do not include the water consumed at the milk parlor exit. Table 4 shows the percentage of water consumed at the various water troughs. Cows drank more uniform across the water troughs averaging between 23.8 and 25.2 percent depending on cross over location. Approximately 9 percent of the drinking water requirements were meet from the two additional water troughs located along the back alley of the freestall. Figure 5 shows the total water requirements. This dairy cleans the troughs three times per day, therefore, 17.6 percent of the total water usage in the housing area was for refilling of the water troughs.
Table 5 shows the average pen data from dairy 3. Water consumption ranged from 108.9 to 114.5 L/c-dy with milk production ranging from 141.5 to 188.3 kgs/c-dy. There was a statistical difference (p<0.01) between the water consumption between pens. The water to milk ratio ranged from 2.9 to 3.8 while the water to feed ratio averaged 4.2 on this dairy. Table 6 shows cattle consumed greater percentages of water from the troughs located in the middle and exit end of the barn. Cows drank 72.5 percent of the total water consumed from the troughs located in the exit half of the building (Figure 6). It was also interesting to note that 60 percent of the water consumed at each of the crossovers was consumed from the water trough nearest the feed bunk (Table 6).
Figure 7 shows graphically the water to milk ratio plotted against milk production There is a generally trend towards decreased water usage as milk production increases. The water to milk ratio generally ranged from 3 to 4 kgs of water per kg of milk. When the water requirements for the milk parlor and heat abatement are included, the values are similar to those reported by Reinemann and Springman (1992).
The data suggest for planning a water system that the water lines should be developed based on desired or anticipated milk production rather than average daily water consumption. The data suggest in housing area, water consumption will range from 3 to 4 kg per kg milk production. The average daily water consumption should be the minimum design valve. Daily water usage in the housing area, excluding heat abatement equipment, for refilling tanks was approximately 6 percent per daily tipping. In pens with only three cross alleys, the water trough in the center cross alley received the heaviest usage. Placing water troughs along the outside of the back alley helped relieve some of the water pressure from the water trough located in the center cross alleys. On dairy 3 with 128 m pens, cows consumed over 70 percent of their daily water needs from the troughs located in the half of the pen nearest the milk parlor. Additional data is needed on water consumption in larger pens and the impact of water trough location. Current recommendations may be to increase the center cross alley from 3.6 to 4.9 m and include a minimum of two water troughs to ensure adequate water is available.
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Table 1. Average pen data for dairy 1 of study.
abMeans within the same column with different superscripts differ P<.01.
Table 2. Average pen data from dairy 2 of study.
abMeans within the same column with different superscripts differ P<01.
Table 3. Average pen data from dairy 3 of study.
abMeans within the same column with different superscripts differ P<.01.
Table 4. Percentage of water utilization at different locations within pens from dairy 3.
Location of Water Trough
Location in Cross-over
Percentage of Total Utilization
Percentage of Location within Cross-over
Percentage of Total Water Utilization by Cross-over
Pen Exit Cross-over
Cross-over - Exit and Middle
Cross-over - Middle and Pen End
Pen End Cross-over
Figure 1. Layout of pens and location of water troughs on Dairy 1.
Figure 2. Typical layout of freestall pen and location of water troughs on Dairy 2.
Figure 3. Typical layout of water troughs locations in a freestall pen on dairy 3.
Figure 4. Effect of water trough location on summer water usage on dairy 1.
Figure 5. Effect of adding additional water troughs on summer water usage in a freestall barn.
Figure 6. The impact of water trough location on water usage in freestall barn with five crossover.
Figure 7. Ratio of water to milk based on milk production per cow.