In situ provision of drinking water to grazing dairy cows improves milk production

In situ provision of drinking water to grazing dairy cows improves milk production
Peer reviewed


AIMS: To determine the effect of providing water within the area grazed by dairy cows on milk yield and quality, compared to requiring cows to walk to a distant water trough, on a dairy farm in the Pampa region of Argentina during summer.

METHODS: Holstein dairy cows were allocated to two herds with similar parity, days in milk and milk production. They were grazed in one paddock that was divided in two, with a fixed water trough at one end. Cows were moved twice daily to grazing plots within the paddock. Control cows (n=66) could only access water from the fixed trough, whereas supplemented cows (n=67) also received water from a mobile trough within the grazing plot. Milk production of each cow, and water consumption of the two herds were measured daily over 62 days. Milk composition for each herd was determined weekly from Days 18 to 60 of the study, and grazing behaviour was observed between 08:00 and 16:00 hours on Days 11–15, 19–22 and 39–43.

RESULTS: Over the 62 days of the study, supplemented cows produced 1.39 (SE 0.11) L/cow/day more milk than Control cows (p=0.027). Estimated mean daily water intake was 50.4 (SE 2.1) L/cow/day for supplemented cows and 58.2 (SE 2.7) L/cow/day for Control cows (p=0.004). Percentage total solids in milk was higher for supplemented (12.5 (SE 0.06)%) than Control (12.4 (SE 0.04)%) cows (p=0.047). During the periods of behavioural observation, a higher percentage of cows in the water supplemented than the Control herd were observed in the grazing area (p=0.012).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This preliminary study demonstrated that provision of water to dairy cows within the grazing plot was beneficial for milk production and composition, and may be associated with longer periods spent within the grazing area, during hot weather in the Pampa region of Argentina.

KEY WORDS: Dairy cow, water supply, milk production, grazing, hot weather

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