Report_OLW-RPF2-2020-21-Increase-milk-production-with-improved-water-quality-July-2021.pdf (942.33 kB)

Does the quality of drinking water (bore vs town supply) influence water intake, milk production and animal preferences in dairy cattle?

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posted on 2024-06-21, 03:58 authored by Edward Hardie, Karin SchutzKarin Schutz, Shen He, Frankie HuddartFrankie Huddart
Water intake and feed intake are closely related in cattle, thus conditions that restrict water intake are likely to influence production. Cattle are sensitive to water contamination, for example with manure, however, there is little evidence of how cows perceive bore water that sometimes contain high concentrations of natural contaminants, such as iron and manganese. The aim of this study was to investigate if providing water of high quality (town supply) compared with unfiltered bore water, high in iron and manganese, will increase water intake and milk production in dairy cattle. A further aim was to investigate animal preferences for these water sources. Four groups of cows (50 cows/group) managed on pasture were offered either town supply water or unfiltered bore water for two weeks, before changing the water treatment for another two weeks in a cross-over design. A small preference study on a subset of animals was undertaken after the four weeks initial trial period. Drinking water treatment did not influence water intake or milk production (P‚â•0.641), however, cows preferred to drink the unfiltered bore water compared to town supply in the preference study (descriptive data). It is likely that previous experience of cows to drink the unfiltered bore water influenced the results as this was the main source of drinking water on the farm. It is also possible that animal perceptions of palatability differed between the two water sources. The town supply was chlorinated, and it is possible that cows found this taste or smell aversive compared to the bore water to which they were accustomed.


Funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Our Land and Water National Science Challenge (Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai) as part of project Rural Professionals Fund 2020–21


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