1999 Annual Report for FNE99-235
Dietary Water Needs of Lactating Dairy Cows on Management Intensive Grazing
The Careys collaborated with Robert de Clue of the NRCS on this project. Their interest was in determining just how much water lactating dairy cows will consume from a trough while on pasture, and how much water they obtain from the forage itself.
They set up a system to monitor water consumption from troughs located on two of their pastures. To determine water intake from grazing, they measured moisture content of the forage, and estimated the amount of fresh matter consumed per animal. Water consumed while in the barn for milking, or while consuming supplemental feed at the feed bunk, was not measured.
The most the cows were observed to drink was 8 gallons per head per day, while on pasture; the least was 0.25 gallon, one cool day in April. Their mean daily consumption from the pasture troughs was 5.2 gallons. Moisture content of the fresh forage ranged from 74% up to 86%. Moisture ingested in the forage ranged from 2.5 to 12.4 gallons per head per day, and averaged 7.2 gallons.
Mr. de Clue estimates the water requirement of this herd as 32.2 gal/head/day, based on milk production records, and a rule-of-thumb of 4.5 to 5 pounds of water consumed per pound of milk produced. It can be seen, consequently, that the pasture trough provided roughly 16% of the animals’ water requirement, and the forage, roughly 22%. It is hoped these figures will be of service to those interested in designing watering systems for managed intensive grazing.
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