While water does not provide protein, carbohydrates or fats, it has been acknowledged as the most important nutrient for dairy cows. Understanding water quality and intake should be as important as understanding dairy's dry matter intake.
Here are some points regarding water that are important:
A high performing cattle can drink over 90 litres of water a day.
It is important to have a firm grasp on the volume and water intake as part of dairy nutrition.
Studies have shown that high performing cows derive around 30 - 40% of its sodium, chloride and sulphur requirements from average water.
Minerals may exist in free or bound forms within water. Excessive hard water may lead to mineral absorption challenges with minerals supplied in the TMR.
Water may also introduce other challenges to dairy nutrition program via quality-reducing factors such as water taste and smell.
Sufficient water intake is important to maintain hydration and normal metabolic activity, allowing the cow's body to function.
There is also physiochemical factors that can decrease palatability as cows are more sensitive with taste and smell as compared to human.
Physiochemical factors within livestock water may include total dissolved solids, sulphur or sulphate, chloride, nitrate and fluoride.
If you suspect water quality to be one of the limiting factor for your dairy's health and performance, start assessing water quality with a livestock water analysis.
First, sample from a clean tap or allow water to run for several minutes prior to sampling into a plastic, screw-top container that excludes air.
After sampling, it is recommended to store the sample in a refrigerator until you send it to the lab for testing.
If water quality is one of the factors, determine what causes it and find the appropriate solution.
Make sure you ask for independent research and verification that the solution is proven before making any commitments.
Follow up with monthly samples after solution is implemented to make sure the water quality issue is solved.
Water intake should be monitored closes. Following good management practices by flushing and cleaning your dairy's waterers regularly and follow guidance of your advisory team.
Feed, fecal bacteria and water-borne contaminants should be cleaned out of waterers regularly.
Optimise water intake to help your herd capture full nutritional vaue from the TMR and this would improve the cow's health and performance.