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#DrTrippsTips, Cow Studies, Water 5 min read

How often will a cow drink every day?

Written by Dr. Scott Tripp

There are a lot of factors that determine how often a cow will drink. And by controlling the factors that are within your control, you may be able to influence how much water a cow will drink every day.

How often will a cow drink every day? The short answer is that a cow will typically drink 7 to 12 times a day. To influence the amount of water a cow will drink every day, it’s good to start with these factors that influence how often a cow will drink water:

  • Availability of water
  • Health of the cow
  • Quality of the water
  • Interference

Water Interference

Interference is an interesting topic. An example of interference is what we probably all learn in school… there may have been certain areas (especially bathrooms) that you avoided due to activity or persons that were present there.

In a cow’s life, there are dominate cows that will monopolize the trough.

Water Availability

There are also human obstacles like a fence that blocks access to the water… and even times when not enough water is present.

To help with the presence of water, the rule of thumb is 1 trough to 20 cows, with a depth of at least 3 inches, a length of 2-3 inches per cow, and at a height of 24-32 inches.

Placement of water is also important because typically a cow will drink the most after milking and eating.

Water Quality

My daughter always refers to the Disney movie Tarzan when talking about water quality. In the movie young Tantor approaches the water hole, then the young elephant asks, “Is this water sanitary? It looks questionable to me… what about bacteria?”

I’m sure all us when getting a glass of water from an unknown source glance at it to see if it’s clear… cows are no different. They like to drink clean, fresh water.


You can’t provide too much water; they will only consume what they need to live. But you can ensure they drink enough water by knowing the factors that keep them drinking.

When we talk about how much a cow should drink every day, we need to talk about how much a lactating cow drinks versus a dry cow. Since milk is high in water, the water requirements of a lactating cow are closely related to milk production. There are many factors, but a dry cow should drink 9 to 12 gallons a day and a lactating cow should drink 30 to 40 gallons day.

In the next article about the water needs of dairy cows, I’ll talk about the specific requirements of dry cows and lactating cows and how it is calculated.

This post is part 1 of a 2 part article on water.
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