Aarhus Universitets segl

Invited review: Freedom from thirst—Do dairy cows and calves have sufficient access to drinking water?

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisReviewForskningpeer review


The importance of drinking water for production and animal welfare is widely recognized, but surveys and animal welfare assessment schemes suggest that many dairy calves and dairy cows do not have sufficient access. Limit milk-fed calves drink more water than calves fed milk ad libitum, but ad libitum milk-fed calves also require access to drinking water, as milk does not meet the animal's requirement for water. At hot ambient temperatures and when calves are sick, access to water is especially important and should be provided at all times. Many young calves do not have access to water throughout 24 h, and whether healthy young calves require free access to water at all times, or from which age, is not clear and requires further study. Dairy cow free water intake (FWI) is largely determined by milk yield, and high-yielding dairy cows may drink up 100 L of water per day. Dry matter, crude protein, and salt content of feed, as well as ambient temperature, have considerable effects on dairy cow water intake. Deprivation of water affects meal patterning for the cow, as well as increased subsequent rate of drinking and compensatory water intake. Although dairy cow ad libitum water intake may exceed the water provision necessary to maintain production, offering water for ad libitum intake may be necessary to safe guard animal welfare. Cattle are suction drinkers that prefer to drink from large open water surfaces, and Holstein dairy cows can drink at a rate of up to 24 L/min. Research on the effect of design and placement of water troughs for indoor-housed dairy cows on their drinking behavior and water intake is limited. Access to a water source at pasture increases the time cows spend there, and access to shade reduces water requirements during periods of warm weather. In both indoor and pastured cattle, there is a lack of knowledge about the effect of stocking of water troughs on competition, drinking behavior, and intake in dairy cows. Studies on the effect of available water trough length and placement, and of the number of cows being able to drink from the same trough of a given dimension, are needed to evaluate current recommendations.

TidsskriftJournal of Dairy Science
Sider (fra-til)11368-11385
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The literature review was commissioned by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries (Copenhagen, Denmark) as part of the contract between Aarhus University and the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries for the provision of research-based policy support at Aarhus University, 2017-2020. Thanks to Katrine K. Fogsgaard (Aarhus University) for fruitful discussions on the outline of the review. Mogens Vestergaard is employed part time by SEGES (Aarhus, Denmark). The authors have not stated any other conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Dairy Science Association

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