Sustainable dairying

Sustainable dairying

28 September 2017

Water use can vary from farm to farm and using water meters to monitor consumption is the most accurate way to understand it.

Water is vital to the operation of a dairy farm, and ensuring this resource is used efficiently and effectively is not just good for the environment but good for the farm business too.

Annual industry averages for water use on dairy farms are 70 litres (l) per cow per day in the shed for wash down and plant wash, and 70 litres per cow per day for stock drinking water. While these figures will vary depending on the farm, feed and shed type, they are a good starting place for understanding water use on farm.

Water meters are an effective way to monitor water use. They can detect small leaks and losses and help track seasonal and annual consumption.

It is estimated 26 percent of stock drinking water is lost due to leakage. This wastes valuable water, causes areas of mud and flooding and leads to extra pumping costs. Having leak detection systems in place and a process to deal with leaks helps reduce these effects and avoid costs.

With a meter, water use can be monitored when it should not be flowing e.g. at night when cows are not drinking.

When a data logger and telemetry is installed, finding slow leaks is much easier. Night-time water use over can be monitored and if it is higher than it should be there may be a leak.

As an industry, we are all committed to ensuring the proper management of our water resources. Many farmers are seeing the value in measuring water use on farm with the latest Sustainable Dairying Water Accord reporting 49.8 percent of dairy farms in New Zealand now have water meters on farm.

Four reasons for smart water use1

  1. Saves money.
  2. Farms on council-supplied water have much to gain from smart water use. All farms can save power costs for pumping water into storage, down the farm, wash-down and pumping effluent through efficient use. If animal health remedies are delivered by an inline dispensing system, leaks or losses out on the farm will mean your stock won’t receive the right dose at the right time and you will have greater animal health costs.

  3. Part of good farm management.
  4. Proper attention to fertiliser use, effluent management and many other issues are all part of good farm management. Careful use of water – as an essential resource for farming – deserves a place on this list. Ensuring a secure water supply is important for animal health and production.

  5. Helps protect the local environment.
  6. There are increasing demands on freshwater resources around the region. If everyone plays their part, we can all meet our needs while protecting the natural environment of our communities.

  7. It’s good for the industry and good for New Zealand.
  8. Efficient water use contributes to sustainability – an area where the New Zealand public has growing expectations.

1 Source: DairyNZ Smart Water USe on Dairy Farms; Short Form Action Plan. www.dairynz.co.nz

If you have any queries around good management practices to save on water use, contact your local Sustainable Dairying Advisor.