Water usage at cattle feedlots and the potential for water conservation

Wednesday, July 23, 2014: 4:05 PM
2101 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Kenneth D Casey , Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Amarillo, TX
John M Sweeten , Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Amarillo, TX
Robert Hagevoort , New Mexico State University, Clovis, NM
Abstract Text:

Water is increasingly valuable due to limited supply with declining aquifers and prolonged droughts, and higher water costs through infrastructure and energy costs. Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue for the general public, and the water use efficiency of industries is particularly topical during the current drought conditions. Water is an essential part of any beef feedlot or dairy operation. At beef cattle feedyards, fresh water is needed for cattle drinking, feed preparation, dust control, trough cleaning, system spillage, and staff amenities. While little potential exists to reduce genuine cattle water consumption, potential exists to reduce fresh water used to prevent troughs from freezing in winter and to control dust under dry conditions. Under summer conditions in the Texas High Plains, water use for dust control at feedyards has been measured at 8% of total fresh water use. Capture, treatment and reuse of water from overflow waterers has been shown to cost effective when compared to pumping extra fresh water. At dairies, fresh water is needed to water cows, cool cows and milk, flush alleyways, wash udders in wash pens, clean milking equipment and increase feed moisture content. Similar to water intake requirements for cows, dairy operation water use can vary greatly depending on management practices, location, and the recycling of water on the dairy. Close attention to minimizing water wastage and a focus on reusing process water where possible can yield significant reductions in overall water use. On an open corral dairy and a freestall dairy on the Texas High Plains, monitoring on the overall facility water balance over 2 – 3 years has shown that 30-40% of total fresh water usage is beneficially reused for irrigation.

Keywords: beef, water-intake, reuse