Half of the cows are drinking dirt and shit
Half of the cows in Europe are drinking contaminated water
You can achieve maximum water intake with good quality water and easy access to the drinkers. Over 85% of milk is water. The more water your cows drink, the more milk you get. Water, light and air are the cheapest feed! In a survey, we found that half of the farms have very poor quality water. Because the drinkers are not cleaned regularly or because the systems are not optimized, systems with communicating drinkers where the low connecting pipeline is full of dirt for example. The solution is very simple: clean your troughs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is how the better farms assure water intake. And this cleaning time is paid back in litres of milk…
Do they drink enough water?
Look at the coats of the cow. Shiny smooth coats is a sign of good water intake. What are the eyes telling you? Lively and round big eyes are good signs. If eyes are sunken deep in the skull it means this cow did not drink today…. If a calf looks like this you better start running to call the vet to save her life.
Very often one “big mama” is ruling the place and she likes to spend several hours in front of the drinker to show everybody that she is the boss. Cows do not get enough chance to drink. There is always another cow chasing it away. The best half will still be OK, but the weakest 50% are suffering. We advise one open trough drinker per 20 cows, or a double fast drinker per 20 cows well spread over the area.
How do cows behave at the drinker? Are they scared? For other cows or for stray voltage? Are they looking around before drinking? Are they sniffing and not drinking? Are they passing the first drinker and walk to the next one? Are they sticking the tongue in first, to check the water temperature? Do you hear them making sucking noises: that means there is not enough water pressure or the drinker is too small. It is also very important to have good drinkers: rounded edges and few corners for bacteria to hide in are the best.
How many litres water do they need?
Cows like to drink 10-15 times a day around 10 litres. In hot summers a high yielding 10.000 litre cow can drink 200 litres per day. The normal drinking speed of a cow is about 20 litres per minute so cows like to drink a minimum of 10 times a day for a half a minute. The more drinkers you put in, the better chance that your heifers will drink enough water. For a nice drink the cows like to have a water depth of at least 7 cm. They have to dip their mouth in without sucking air at the sides of their lips. Then if you talk about “fast drinkers”, you need a water flow of 20 litres per minute to serve the cow. That means that you need 5 atmosphere pressure, a 30 mm wide tube and a large inlet opening in the drinker. Many commercially available drinkers are useless, because engineers don’t know much about cows and farmers. Check the details and test it with a big bucket: do they bring 20 litres per minute? Are they easy to clean? Do they have nice round edges, so there are no risks of wounding the cow? Are they wide enough so a cow can stand straight and drink comfortably?
Temperature of the water?
Don’t worry about the temperature. As long as it stays above zero. First make sure you have clean water. Second make sure you have enough drinkers, Thirdly: check the pressure so they will be always full.
Then if you have these major 3 things assured, you can start to worry about the ideal temperature of around 17 degrees Celcius. Cows drink more in winter time when you supply warm water. Cooling water from the milk cooler can be used to water the cows. Just beware: if you don’t clean the drinkers cows will only drink less water in summertime, because of rapid bacterial growth. So warm water in winter is ok, in summer it is risky. For cooling the cow in heat stress we prefer cold water. In the very open barns that are more common nowadays, it is necessary to have a good winter proof water system that cannot freeze. A ring line with constant circulation does the job. For below 5 degrees Centigrade we also need a heater on the system, and electric heaters on the water tanks, or a special circulating system that leads the warmer ring line water through the open troughs.
Shitting in the drinkers
If you place a drinker in a narrow collecting area: shit happens. If you place it behind the eating cows in the cow lane, you will see that when they back out of the row of eating cows they end up shitting in the tanks. So the position of the drinkers is critical. If you have narrow passages double fast drinkers in every passage are preferred. The advantage is that cows drink in the same direction as the cows resting in the double row of cubicles. his leaves space open for a passing cow. Cows always like to drink when they come and go from the feeding table. So a passage without a drinker is not a good idea.