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Tips to keep your cows drinking, eating, and producing this winter.

January, 2019

Did you know, a cow must consume between 30 and 50 gallons of water each day in order to properly produce milk, maintain cellular functions, and stay hydrated? Approximately 5 of those gallons are completely allotted to producing their daily output of milk. It’s easy to look at this information and know that encouraging water intake should be, and in nearly all cases is, a huge focus for dairy farmers.

TechMix dairy blog cold stressMost producers know the ideal times to encourage water availability. There are certain instances when a cow is specifically craving water: in the fresh pen, immediately after calving, during heat stress, in the hospital pen and in the return lane after milking. Another fun fact, cows consume 30-50% of their daily water intake within one hour after milking – wow, that’s a lot of water at one time! Did you notice that we specifically call out heat stress but say nothing about cold stress? It’s easy to forget that during cold stress, cows crave water and they NEED water.

In cold weather, cows have higher energy requirements that can only be addressed through increased dry matter intake. Energy requirements for both body weight maintenance and for production demands add to dietary requirements (up to 40% more during extreme cold) and create a necessity for higher feed intake. Therefore, any interruptions in feed intake can adversely affect production along with body condition. Without water, cows will not eat. If a cow does not eat, there is a cascade of effects. We know what it means when production is affected but what about body condition? Reduced body condition leads to increased chance of lameness and poor reproduction – both are bad for the bottom line. Long story short, we need cows to drink in order to keep them eating during the cold temperatures.

A few tips to keep your cows drinking this winter are:

  • Supply clean, fresh water to cows at all times but especially during the times they crave it listed above.
  • Ensure water quality through frequent testing
  • Check water temperature with a thermometer often to maintain ideal temperature of 40-65˚F
  • Regularly check water lines and pipes to avoid freezing

Cows need water for a number of reasons: milk production, cellular function, to maintain hydration and to encourage them to eat. If their supply is limited, there is a spiral effect of issues. Follow the tips outlined above to keep your cows drinking, eating and producing this winter.

 

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