Who knew so much came down to clean water for quality milk?
The Internet is riddled with tips and tricks to control mastitis and improve the quality of milk through feed rations, but what is generally overlooked is the essential need for clean, accessible water.
Experts focus on so many factors such as bedding, milking practices, proper sanitation of the milk lines, and the perfect nutritional balance, but the base of all milk is water. Each cow drinks 30-50 gallons of water per day, which accounts for 87% of the makeup of milk.
When thirsty, cows will drink whatever water is available to them. If the available water is contaminated with bacteria or the dissolved solids in the water are not evaluated, producers may be creating avoidable issues for themselves.
What can be done?
The first step for producers is to assess the quality of their herds’ drinking water. A complete analysis of chemicals and microbiologic contaminants is essential, as the cow’s tolerance and performance are directly linked. Water contaminated with heavy metals like Ferrous Iron (Fe) will cause scouring, loss of body weight, and lower milk production by decreasing the cow’s ability to digest nutrients from the feed. Bacterial contamination in the water will increase the chances of cows becoming infected with a mastitis infection, which will lead to increased costs for treatment and loss of production. Mastitis accounts for over $550 million in lost production each year, so using simple means of avoidance are wise overall investments.
The second step for producers is to create an environment that is easily accessible. For example, troughs need to be set outside the exit of the milking parlor so cows can drink after being milked. They just expelled up to 60 pounds of milk; no wonder the ladies are thirsty. Water troughs in the pens need to be placed at the ends of the bedding lines and every 100 feet, so a cow never needs to walk more than 50 feet to get water. The troughs need to be a minimum of three inches deep and should allow for at least 2.5 linear inches per cow. The troughs should be physically cleaned at a minimum of every other day to prevent organic build up and algae growth.
It is simple. Fresh, sanitary water is the backbone on which all other efforts for quality milk rest.
With clean accessible water, the nutritionist can create a feed ration and a program that will increase volume and components and decrease overall mastitis infections throughout a herd.