Effective use of Water on Dairy Farms

Published 1 August 09

Effective use of water on dairy farms

Dairy farmers could slash mains water costs on their farms by using water more efficiently, according to DairyCo extension officer in the South West, Chris Coxon.

Mains water supply on the average dairy farm costs £31 per cow per year but can be over £100/cow/year on some units.

Livestock drinking water accounts for between 50% and 75% of a dairy farm's water usage, says Chris.  "Water is the single most important requirement for livestock.  Cows require at least 60 litres each per day and some high yielding cattle may need up to 100 litres!

"Cows normally drink two to five times a day, with peak intake happening after milking.  Milk is 85% water and 50% of that water intake happens following afternoon milking.  Milk yield is closely related to water quality, availability and intake so stock need to be given adequate clean water - there is no opportunity to reduce water useage in this area.

"However, plate cooler water, which can account for up to 25% of farm water use, could be reused effectively to reduce its impact on overall farm water use," continues Chris.  "The added impact of not reusing this water, and letting it drain into waste storage, is that you are potentially adding to the cost of wastewater disposal."

The recommended flow rate to achieve optimum cooling is a rate of 2:1 water to milk so farms could be using twice as much water as they are producing in milk just cooling it, says Chris.

Other areas of water use to check are the collecting yard and during parlour washing down as these areas of water use can be hugely variable.

"The range of usage in these areas can range from between five and 50 litres per cow per day and can account for between 5% and 17% of total water use," adds Chris.

The following practices can cause wide variations between farms:

•    Damping down prior to milking is common practice, speeding washing after milking, but using more water.
•    Washing during milking, including udder and teat washing, as well as washing away dung from floors.
•    Volume hoses for washing down the parlour can use 10 times the flow rates of pressure washers, causing higher useage rates.

Chris suggests checking water efficiency during plant washing as well, as this commonly accounts for between 4% and 10% of total farm water use, and includes parlour and bulk tank washings.

"With bulk tanks the biggest variable is if you have daily or every other day collection.  Also, water use ranges depending on the type and size of tank used - from small ice bank tanks to larger tanks with fast water systems," says Chris.

DairyCo's updated Effective use of water on dairy farms covers not only the use of water on farms, but water sourcing, topical information such as detecting leaks, alternative water sources and rainwater harvest.  Also included within the booklet is information that enables producers to carry out a full water audit.  This is also available on DairyCo's website - www.dairyco.org.uk.

Chris Coxon can be contacted on 07989 959517 or by email chris.coxon@dairyco.org.uk.

To download a copy of Effective use of water on dairy farms click here.

Leak detection action plan
Leaks will cost you twice - once for the water lost and again to dispose of it.
•    Sketch a map of your farm's water supply
•    Read and note down your meter reading
•    Check your meter at a time of low use
•    Isolate sections of your supply
•    Walk your water supply route
•    Contact your water company
•    Hire leak detection equipment of find a company specialising in leak detection