Meet Australian cattle & sheep farmers, discover 100 research projects and learn more about what is important to the sustainability of the industry

Water use in the feedlot

The Issues

Like farms, water use on cattle feedlots primarily relates to drinking water for cattle, however, water is also used for feed processing, washing cattle and managing wastewater.

Feedlots provide water to cattle 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Given Australia’s unpredictable climate and frequent droughts, access to water and water saving techniques is a top priority of the industry.

A survey conducted by the Australian Lotfeeders Association (ALFA) in May 2007 concluded that 29% of feedlots across QLD, NSW and VIC are solely dependent on surface water, 49% dependent on groundwater with the remainder able to access a combination of the two. Given the impact of drought on surface water, feedlots are concerned that they will not be able to secure a reliable supply of water into the future. 

The Facts

  • Water in feedlots is used for stock drinking purposes, dust suppression, feed processing, cattle washdown, effluent management, general cleaning and for staff and office amenities.
  • Of these, stock water consumption is by far the most significant with an average of approximately 50-60 litres of water used per head per day.
  • The National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) requires that environmental management procedures be established and implemented in adherence with the National Beef Cattle Feedlot Environmental Code of Practice. Annual auditing is undertaken of NFAS and includes the management of water to ensure sufficient supplies of good quality water are available at all times. These procedures ensure that:
    • Clear and achievable environmental objectives are outlined
    • Performance indicators, operational practices and monitoring programs established
  • Feedlot managers and employees must be aware of and adhere to their environmental legislative requirements and be adequately trained

The Research

Climate change (with associated higher temperatures and reduced rainfall) has led the industry to look at further reducing and minimising water usage.

Initiatives to address this include:

The industry is also researching other initiatives such as treating effluent water for cattle drinking purposes and more efficient ways to use water collected from rainfall.