Archive: Milk Matters - Water Use

Published 3 August 09

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Keeping a close eye on the weather is part of farming life, but using the elements to your advantage can save you money.

Wales has seen more than its fair share of rain this summer, but at the same time it has afforded many dairy farmers the opportunity to collect rainwater and so cut costs.Water is essential as it is linked with every aspect of dairy production. Livestock drinking accounts for 50% -70% of water use, with plate cooling, the washing of yards, parlours, bulk tanks and plant contributing to use along with irrigation, slurry flushing systems, sprayers, domestic and general adding to the cost.

On average water company charges are set to run 4.2% above inflation until 2010. Mains water supply costs the average dairy farm £31 per cow per year, but on some units this can be over £100, so with the average farmer getting through 10,000 litres per cow per year just washing parlour walls and floors, using harvested rainwater is an attractive - and for many easily viable - option.

If rainwater is to be used for livestock drinking then there will be filtration and storage costs, but if you have your own water storage such as a pond or storage tank then harvesting is much more cost effective. Added to this is the security of having your own water supply with a relatively predictable volume of water. There are alternative water supply options including boreholes, springs, canals, rivers and lakes, but it must be remembered that while abstracted water will normally be cheaper it is not free and inefficient use can increase water disposal costs.

DairyCo has revised its booklet 'Effective Use of Water on Dairy Farms'  which details the options available to dairy farms as well as sections to help you evaluate how efficiently you are using the water on your farm, and points out ways you could save costs and maximise water efficiency. A free self audit water pack is also available from DairyCo.


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