Water use overview
4 min read
Efficient water management on your dairy farm can save water, time, and money. Begin by updating your farm's water infrastructure, replacing old lines and connections prone to leaks. Educate everyone on your farm about problem areas. Regularly inspect and maintain your water troughs, carry spare parts for immediate repairs and record your maintenance checks. Mapping your farm's water system, including the water supply and reticulation, is helpful for staff and relief milkers. Be mindful of water leaks, with systems in place to detect and handle them. Ensure staff know their water-related responsibilities and the procedures for dealing with water loss.
Water supply is a vital component of a farm and making sure systems are working efficiently can save water, time and money. The following tips will help identify opportunities to reduce water use and improve efficiency.
Older poor quality water lines and connections are more likely to split and leak.
Water lines that are near the surface, run under races or over drains are at particular risk of damage. Mark the locations of these weak spots on a map.
Having a check and maintenance system for water troughs that staff are familiar with is an important preventative measure for leaks.
A farm map can be used to outline details of the water system, highlight areas prone to leaks and losses, identify where improvements could be made and where meters should be/are installed.
Farm water maps are useful for relief milkers and staff so problems can be solved when you are off the farm.
Details should include:
Tip: Include on your map an indication of what is a fix and what is to be replaced when it breaks down. This will help to spread the cost of upgrades over a manageable timeframe.
It is estimated that 26% of stock drinking water is lost as leakage. This wastes valuable water, causes areas of mud and flooding and incurs extra pumping costs. Having leak detection systems in place and a process to deal with leaks helps to manage them and reduce these effects.
Leaks can vary in the rate of water loss. Fast leaks are often noticed immediately and fixed quickly while small leaks can often go undetected for a long time.
Early detection can prevent excessive water loss. A water meter with telemetry can alert you as soon as the leak occurs. If the leak is in the middle of the night, turn taps from the water tanks off and deal with the leak in the morning.
Other ways to notice large leaks:
For more information on setting up a leak detection system, click here.
Slow, low rate leaks are often not detected for a long time because the water system can cope with the leak. They are often only detected when they become a major leak or in summer when green patches are noticed in brown paddocks. While they are slow leaks, the amount of water adds up over time. One of the best ways to detect slow leaks is to have a water meter, or a water meter with telemetry and a data logger.
With a water meter, water use can be monitored when water should not be flowing e.g. at night when cows are not drinking. If water is flowing, then the dials should be turning slowly and it is likely there is a leak. Areas of the farm can then be turned off with isolation valves, to work out where the leaks are.
When a data logger and telemetry is installed, finding slow leaks is much easier. Night time water use over a period of time can be monitored and if water use is higher than it should be, then it may be due to leaks. If houses are connected to the stock drinking water line they may use water at night. Areas of the farm that the cows are not in can be turned off with isolation valves over successive nights to work out where the leak is. The nightly recorded water use can be checked to see if the water use has decreased.
This will help to ensure things are done regularly and smart water use efforts run smoothly.
Significant amounts of water can be saved (or wasted) on the farm depending on how yard wash-down is done. Train new staff on this and review it with workers each season.
Write down the steps you want taken when there is suspected water loss to ensure staff have a consistent approach. You could use a board to note the status of the problem while it is being attended to and to sign-off completion. Some experienced farmers say if it isn’t written down it doesn’t happen.