An Experience with Monitoring Water Usage on Dairy Farms

Mr. Dusty Sonnenberg, Extension Educator, Henry County, The Ohio State University 

Water is the most important nutrient for any living organism. Wise use and management of that water is and will become an increasingly important function of dairy producers. Vmark, LLC is an Ohio-based company whose corporate theme is "rethinking water management". This organization has recently completed a water metering project at a commercial dairy in northwest Ohio in conjunction with Dr. Mike Brugger of The Ohio State University. Vmark, LLC specializes in the design and installation of water purification systems that are customized for large dairy farms. This organization believes that in order to facilitate wise water management decisions, we must first understand where all the water is going.

In this project, which started in August 2004, meters were installed on a relatively large, expanding dairy farm operation. The purpose of the metering project was to determine exactly where water is being used in this operation. Reliable data has been generated since January 2005. Through the metering project, valuable data were gained regarding this dairy's operation, such as the actual overall average daily drinking water per cow, the actual average daily waste water per cow, and the actual overall average water used per cow per day.

Metering the flow of water through this particular dairy's operation proved to be an effective management tool, as demonstrated by detection of an equipment failure (faulty valve), observations of shorter and/or longer wash down cycles, and documentation of shorter than recommended wash down cycles for the bulk tank. Another result of the metering project was the significant reduction of water usage by lowering the flow of water through the plate cooler while ensuring continued proper cooling of the milk. With metering data available, water usage was also reduced by adjusting the daily wash cycles to eliminate an extra security washing that had been completed each day.

The next goal is to develop and market a water filtration system that cleans the water immediately following its use. This system will be individually designed for each dairy, based on the water usage patterns and the characteristics of the waste water being generated by that operation. Rethinking water management is the most efficient way to conserve our planet's most valuable natural resource, water. The organization believes it has a viable, cost effective, long term alternative to offer commercial dairy farms an opportunity to accomplish this goal. More information can be gained at