Designing better water troughs: Dairy cows prefer and drink more from larger troughs

L. C. Pinheiro MacHado Filho, D. L. Teixeira, D. M. Weary, M. A.G.Von Keyserlingk, M. J. Hötzel

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Little previous work has examined the effects of water trough design on dairy cattle. In the current study we tested the effects of water trough height and size on preference and water intake of cows on pasture. In the first experiment, cows (n = 14) were individually given access to two commercially available water troughs that differed in height (30 cm versus 60 cm) and size (126 cm × 68 cm versus 139 cm × 95 cm), but were otherwise similar. Cows (mean + S.E.M.) spent more time drinking (27.26 + 6.22 s versus 2.43 + 2.08 s), consumed more water (9.28 + 2.27 l versus 0.68 + 0.71 l) and took more sips (17.56 + 4.31 versus 1.64 + 1.48) from the higher and larger of the two troughs. In a second experiment the smaller trough was placed into the larger 60 cm trough, so that the two choices were presented to the cows (n = 12) at identical heights. When presented in this way, there was no significant difference in cow drinking behaviour or consumption from the two troughs, although there was some tendency for cows to drink more and spend more time drinking from the larger trough. To determine if the preference for the larger and deeper trough also affected consumption when cows did not have a choice, we measured consumption over a 24 h period when eight groups (each of three to four animals) had access to one of the two troughs tested in Experiment 1. Each group was tested with each trough on consecutive days, with the order of testing balanced across groups. All groups drank more water when they were provided the higher and larger trough. Consumption was 43.84 l cow -1 (+ 2.95) from this trough compared to 33.35 l cow -1 (+2.59 l cow -1) from the lower, smaller version (P < 0.03). In conclusion, cows prefer and drink more water from larger troughs. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Dairy cows
  • Drinking behaviour
  • Preference test
  • Water intake
  • Water trough


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