Drinking water access and quality

Water is often ignored in dairy herd nutrition. However, it is the first nutrient.

Unrestricted access to clean, fresh drinking water is essential for dairy cow productivity, health and welfare. A cow’s body is between 60 - 80 per cent water. Milk is 87 per cent water. Water is essential for regulation of body temperature, rumen fermentation, flow of feed through the digestive tract, nutrient absorption, metabolism and waste removal. Water also has structural and functional roles in all cells and all body fluids.

Download the 'Drinking water access and quality' fact sheet.

Key messages

  • Cows are sensitive to water access and quality problems
  • During hot weather, a lactating cow can drink 200+ litres of water per day
  • Provide water troughs in each paddock as well as in laneways
  • Give cows the opportunity to drink immediately before and after milking
  • Cows on a sacrifice paddock or feedpad should have access to two water troughs at all times
  • Water troughs should be easy to clean, and be cleaned regularly
  • The only way to know if your farm’s water is fit for your cows to drink is to get it tested by a specialist laboratory