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.
  • 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.
  • Milking 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. 

For a 300-cow herd there will need to be 12,000 litres of water provided straight after milking.  A 20 litre per minute flow rate will take 10 hours to supply this much water.  Access to at least two 5,000 litre troughs with independent inflows will enable adequate water to be supplied without risk of the troughs being emptied.

Heat transfer

This cow is transferring heat from its body via contact with the water.


Volume and space requirements in sheds and feed pads

  • 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 temperatures 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.

Southern end feed trough

This trough is on the southern end of a feedpad.

Water quality tips

  • Saline water can affect animal health and affect the effluent management system.Stock water supplies should be analysed regularly to check the 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.
  • Water supplies should be tested for chemical and bacterial contamination. Information on water quality and water testing is available from government agencies.

rectangle trough in field

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.

Trough inside dairy

A shaded circular concrete trough positioned at the end of the dairy yard.

Rectangle concrete trough 

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.

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