Water advice for livestock farmers

DARD has produced advice to farmers on water requirements for livestock and dairy hygiene.

General advice on water requirements 
Cow in a field

Farmers should develop contingency plans to get water to all stock in the event that water will be turned off. In many cases this will mean having sufficient stores and a means of getting it to the animals – a storage facility and a pumping system.

Information on how to calculate water usage in farms is available here from the DOE website.

Farmers are also encouraged to:

  • work out the approximate quantities you will need from the table.
  • make sure that all pumps and pipework are in good working order, and all tanks are leakproof
  • reduce the dry matter content of the feed – replace concentrate with silage, but be aware that this will affect performance, but not as much as water deprivation. Animals are likely to suffer distress if deprived of water for more than 24hrs
  • visit the NIW website and keep the contact details of NIW close to hand so that you can receive the most up to date information relating to your water supply
  • make arrangements with your suppliers and mechanics so that in the event of a breakdown, you can contact them over the holidays, when many stores and firms will be shut
  • aim to conserve water as much as possible

Dairy hygiene

During water shortages on a Dairy Farm the first priority in terms of milk hygiene is to maintain the correct wash routines for internal surfaces of all milking equipment and bulk storage tanks.

Reduced quantities of water will be needed if parlour/ byre floors are thoroughly scraped or brushed clean.  If scraping and brushing is done thoroughly when the floor is already wet and the dirt moist, the requirement for additional washing down could be reduced.

Farmers should take as many steps as possible to minimise contamination.

Can I use non-mains water to wash my parlour and milking equipment?

Non-mains water can be used for parlour and equipment cleaning providing it is clean.

I can't carry out a hot wash - will a cold caustic wash do?

A hot wash at least once per week is a necessary requirement within the cold caustic cold wash system

I am worried about the hygienic quality of my milk - what can I do?

Contact your milk buyer and discuss the situation with them. They will be able to advise on the best action to take

My mains supply is intermittent - what can I do.

The first priority is to provide stock with water - try to fill all available tanks/containers when the water is on. Use ball cocks or stop valves if possible to avoid overflows if the supply comes on during the night. Make sure troughs and drinkers are clean - remove any debris at the bottom to provide as clean water as possible for stock.

Drinking water requirements for livestock

How much water does animals needs?

These figures are guides only as individual requirements will vary depending on individual circumstances, environment and diet.

Cattle Amount of water (litres/day)
Cow with calf 50
Dairy cow in milk 68 - 155
Yearling 24  -36
2 year old 36 - 50
Pigs Amount of water (litres/day)
Lactating sow  18 - 23
Gestating sow / boar 13 - 18
Fattening pig 3 - 10
Weaner 1 - 3
Poultry (per 1000) Amount of water (litres/day)
Broilers (1-4 weeks) 50 - 250
Broilers (5-8 weeks) 345 - 470
Laying fowl 180 - 320
Pullets 30 - 180
Sheep Amount of water (litres/day)
Ewe with lamb 9 - 10.5
Pregnant ewe / ram 4 - 6.5

How often should animals receive water?

All animals should have continuous access to a suitable water supply and be provided with an adequate supply of fresh drinking water each day or be able to satisfy their fluid intake by other means. Animals are likely to suffer distress if they cannot access water for more than 24 hrs

How can the water requirements of animals be reduced?

The amount of water required can be reduced by decreasing the dry matter content of the diet.

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