By Deanne Meyer, Ph.D., Livestock Waste Management Specialist, Department of Animal Science, UC Davis and UC ANR,

The drought monitor map has much of California maroon again. It’s important to make every drop of water count. When you think of your water budget in the production facility consider water used for drinking, cooling and sanitation.

Many California dairies have converted to an air chilled cooler for milk cooling to reduce water use. If this is something you’re considering, think about how you flush manure. Air cooled chillers use less water. Producers with processing pits need to plan how to “thin” processing pit water so it can flush.

Evaluate cow misters to be sure water spent there is well invested.

Daily attention to key areas around the dairy is important. Everyone on the dairy can contribute to maximizing water use! Check:

• Water trough floats and plugs

• Sprinkler pen sprinkler heads

• Drop hose nozzles

• Hose shut-off valves

• Cow mister nozzles

• Cow soaker nozzles

Drought also means less water for crops. Irrigation scheduling carried out with soil moisture monitoring and evapotranspiration data may extend intervals between irrigations thereby reducing in season irrigations. Tools and information are readily available. Check with your crop consultant to see if you can save water!

Improving irrigation efficiency and distribution uniformity reduces water needed for crop production. These changes take additional resources and infrastructure to add valves or cut fields in half. Modifying check width or length can help reduce water needed. Funds may be available to help with field resizing costs: EQIP funds (USDA NRCS) and CDFA SWEEP funds are good options to consider when they are available.

For those who fallowed fields of winter forage do check with your nutrient management consultant. Less land farmed means less manure applied to fields.

In many areas of California local groundwater sustainability agencies are in high gear to improve the balance between water us and recharge. Dairy will want to be well represented in these discussions!