Water Supply & Access

Changes to farm infrastructure may be appropriate  for the improvement of water security or boost water efficiency – for example, upgrading leaky systems or investing in larger water troughs.

Drinking water for warm weather

In hot weather, cows will drink up to 250 litres each day - double their consumption on a cooler day. Make sure cows have access to plenty of cool drinking water wherever they are during the day. This is a combination of trough access and flow rate into the trough.

A large water trough on the exit side of the dairy allows cows to consume water at their leisure. Water troughs in every paddock will keep cows grazing longer in hot weather. The less distance they have to go to water reduces the chance of them stopping grazing due to the heat. Large volume concrete troughs help keep drinking water cool.

High flow rates are essential. Water pipes should be 75mm in diameter. There needs to be sufficient pressure to provide 20 litres per cow per hour.  A cow can drink 20 litres per minute so flow rates are critical.  Large volume troughs will help to maintain supply during high demand.

Avoid running black poly pipe along the ground as water will become very hot.


Watering Points in Housed Environments

According to a Victorian Department of Primary Industries publication, each watering point should be able to hold 200–300 litres of water, with a minimum flow rate of 10 litres per minute.

The volume can be reduced to approximately 100 litres if the flow rate is increased to 20 litres per minute. At least 50 mm of water point space should be provided per cow in systems where cattle are confined for 24 hours per day.

The optimal water point height is between 600–900 mm (cow feet level to top of water point)

A depth of 150–200 mm is recommended to maintain cool water temperature and reduce debris accumulation.

Water points should be:

  • surrounded by plenty of passage space and preferably on the outside of the traffic curve
  • easily accessible as soon as cows leave the dairy and also within 15 m of the feeding table
  • easily accessible for cleaning. A bung should be provided to drain the system completely
  • the drainage water for earthen pads should be piped directly from the water point to the manure management system.


Water point locations

Location Guidance 

Paddocks and laneways

Provide watering points in every paddock, as this will keep cows grazing longer in hot weather. If they 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,so that water can drain into the effluent management system. This helps to minimise the formation of wet patches throughout the feedpad.

 Concrete feedpad

Place water troughs within about 15m 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 

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.

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.

Water heat transfer

While cows prefer drinking warm water, providing cool water will help them manage heat load.

Circular feedpad

Water troughs in each paddock will keep
cows grazing longer in hot weather.