Grains 2 Milk Logo
HomeAbout the programMedia centreSubscribeContact us
Cool Cows and Climate Change - Information for Dairy Farmers
Paddocks and laneways
Dairy yard
Stock water supply
Design considerations


Stock water supply

Priorities for cooling cows

1. Cool drinking water

Maximise heat transfer – provide cool drinking water

2. At any location

Maximise access – provide multiple water points

Access to drinking water

When cows drink, they transfer heat from their bodies to the water via conduction.

Effective heat transfer depends on differences in temperature. Cold water transfers more heat away from the cow than warm water.

Allow 200-250 litres/cow/day in hot weather – double the normal intake.

Make sure cows have access to cool water wherever they are during the day or night.

This cow is transferring heat from its body

via contact with the water.

Volume and space requirements

Milkings cows usually drink after milking and they can consume up to 20 litres of water/minute. Around 30% of daily consumption occurs just after milking, so water should be easily accessible as soon as cows leave the dairy (not a 1-2 kilometre walk away).

  • Optimal drinking temperature is 15-20°C.
  • Troughs should be 600-900 mm high (cow feet level to top of water point).
  • Water depth should be 150-200 mm to maintain cool temperature and reduce debris accumulation.
  • Water reticulation systems should supply at least 20 litres/cow/hour.
  • Each trough should be able to hold at least 200-300 litres of water with a minimum flow rates of 10 litres/minute.
  • Trough volume can be reduced to about 100 litres if the flow rate is increased to 20 litres/minute.

This trough is on the southern end of a feedpad.

Water quality

Saline water can affect animal health and affect the effluent management system.

  • Stock water supplies should be analysed regularly to check salinity levels.

Install troughs adjacent to feed alleys and dairy yards so cows have to place their head through the fence to access water.

  • Make sure you can get access to troughs for cleaning.
  • Use a bung to drain the trough into the effluent management system.
  • Plumb troughs so that water can drain back into concrete feed alley or yards after cleaning.
  • Rectangular water troughs are easier to drain and clean.
  • Ensure manure does not build-up around the base of troughs.

Stock water points should be cleaned at least weekly to remove any feed residue or other contaminants.

This stainless steel trough is located at the intersection of

the main laneways leading to/from the dairy.

On this farm each feedpad has two circular concrete troughs.

Water point locations

Paddocks and laneways:

  • Provide watering points in every paddock, as this will keep cows grazing longer in hot weather. If they have to leave the paddock to get a drink they often do not return to graze.

Dairy exit:

  • A large water trough on the exit side of the dairy is a must.
  • Locate in wide passage, preferably on the outside of cow traffic curve.

Dairy holding yard:

  • Install troughs along sides of dairy yard so cows have to place their heads through the fence to drink.

Earthen feedpad:

  • Place troughs away from the feed source on the down-slope side of the pad, so that water can drain directly into the effluent management system. This helps to minimise the formation of wet patches throughout the feedpad.

Concrete feedpad:

  • Place water troughs within about 15 m of the feeding table.
  • Locate away from the feed alley to prevent feed contaminating the water.
  • Locate within the feedpad complex, so that spillage and flushing can be directed into the effluent management system.

Freestall shed:

  • Locate water troughs at the crossovers to prevent feed contaminating the water and to reduce the incidence of cattle blocking each other in the alleys.
  • Provide at least 5 cm of trough space per cow in systems where cattle are confined for 24 hours/day – with at least two points for every group of cows.

A shaded circular concrete trough positioned

at the end of the dairy yard.

This rectangular concrete trough runs

alongside the feedpad.

Keys to success

  • AVOID RUNNING black poly pipe along the ground, as water will become hot before reaching the watering point.
  • LARGE VOLUME concrete troughs help keep drinking water cool.
  • LOCATE TROUGHS in shaded areas where possible.
  • USE HIGH-PRESSURE flow systems that allow rapid refilling of water troughs.
  • DESIGN TO cater for increased demand in hot weather.
  • CONSIDER FUTURE increases in herd size or changes to farm layout.
  • LOCATE SO that water is not contaminated by feed.
  • DESIGN AND locate to allow easy, frequent cleaning.
  • MANAGE MANURE build up around troughs.

Australian Government - Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry