Abstract In an automatic milking system with cows grazing on a mixed grass sward, experiments were performed in 2001 and 2003, lasting 10 and 7 wk, respectively. Two location strategies for offering drinking water were compared: available in the barn and in the field (group B+F) or only in the barn (group B). During 2001, cows grazed alternately at 2 pastures at different distances from the barn, 50m (near pasture) or 330m (distant pasture), whereas the distant pasture was mainly used in 2003. No significant differences in milk yield, milking frequency, or milk composition were found between the 2 treatments. Average milk yield in the 2 experiments was 26.8 and 27.6kg of milk in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and average milking frequency was 2.4 milkings/ d. Significant differences in animal behavior were observed only during the period when animals grazed on the distant pasture in 2001, with animals in group B+F spending 40% of their time on pasture and 21% of their time grazing, whereas corresponding values for group B were 34 and 17%, respectively. In 2003, average drinking water intakes per cow were 53 L/d on treatment B and 51 L/d on treatment B+F, and were not significantly different. Total daily water intake including water in the pasture was approximately 90 L/cow. In conclusion, no significant differences in milk yield, milking frequency, or water intake were found between cows offered drinking water both in the barn and in the field compared with drinking water only in the barn at pasture distances up to 330m.