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Pasture water solutions

 
Posts: 40
Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Hi all!

So, I've been thinking about getting cattle for 5+ years. We have a family history of Dexters.

Life events have put that on the backburner the last few years, but I'd really like to get going next year. Having only about 3.25 acres of grazing available, my plan would be to start with a cow, calf and steer in a rotational system. Basically, I want a steer a year in the freezer, so add a Dexter steer in the years that the cow gives me a heifer calf. That should work with the amount of pasture growth we have here.

The one issue I need to figure out is how best to do water out in the pasture. Our primary well water is at the house. We have a second drilled well up at the barn, but it hasn't been working in 20+ years. Would need to get all the electrical sorted out, new pump and plumbing, and deal with the fact that it's in an unheated barn during the winter and still a long way from the pasture. Our third option is a dug well in the old turnaround circle in front of the old barn's milkhouse.

Fix the barn well

Probably the best long-term solution. Would require new electrical, pump and plumbing. In addition, would need to rebuild the pump room to be insulated and relatively airtight as it would need to be heated all winter. and probably my best option for winter water anyways. However, this is probably the most time, effort and funds-intensive options I can think of, and requires me to invest in a barn that I may someday be tearing down (don't want to, but probably need to invest $30k-$50k to get it weather-tight again, possibly a $50k roof on top of that, not to mention fixing all the rot that's set in from 30-40 years of low / no maintenance - for a building that I don't use most of due to it's awkward configuration.

Water trailer

My next idea is to purchase an IBC tote or other water tank with an opaque cover and put it on a trailer where it sits up high. I can pull it to the house with my tractor to fill it, then park it in the field, attach field lines and use it to gravity-feed a hose out to wherever I have the pasture water that day.

Here's the problems with that idea:

 1. Still have to invest a lot of time and money into building / buying a trailer for this.
 2. This plan breaks down when the ground is too wet to pull a heavily loaded water trailer.
 3. Doesn't really provide a good winter solution.

Wind Power

A second option - I have an old dug well nearby with the water down between 6 and 12 feet, depending on the time of year. I don't have power to the well, and bringing power would require breaking a bunch of old concrete. I could potentially add a windmill pump and a tank, and gravity feed the pasture,  but I'd need a big tank  up fairly high to have enough of a pressure head to feed out to the pasture. Option B would be to run the outfeed from the wind pump directly to the trough in the pasture, but that may not be too dependable. I think I need a tank buffer to carry through those periodic no-wind summer days.

Problems:

1. The well is in the middle of the turnaround circle of our driveway, under a nice mature Red Maple that would have to come down if I built a windmill.
2. Not sure how much tank buffer capacity I would need to reasonably have.
3. I'm not sure my wife would be a big fan of having all the water infrastructure front and center on our property
4. Still doesn't give me a good winter solution.

Does anyone have any other thoughts or ideas about how to reasonably and cheaply develop a water solution?


 
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Location: New Jersey, USA
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Could you collect surface water / rain? Dig a pond? If you have any kind of slope then you could funnel it into a pond.

You’d still need to move the water to the cattle as you wouldn’t want your cattle having direct access. I appreciate this depends on your terrain and you didn’t mention any streams.
 
Brian Vraken
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Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 5b
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Edward Norton wrote:Could you collect surface water / rain? Dig a pond? If you have any kind of slope then you could funnel it into a pond.

You’d still need to move the water to the cattle as you wouldn’t want your cattle having direct access. I appreciate this depends on your terrain and you didn’t mention any streams.



I've considered these.

With only 3.25 acres, I don't want to invest in a sizeable pond and give up grass. And there's no slope here - this area is flat as a board!
 
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Location: southern Illinois.
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I live in zone 6.   I decided on a 3 season solution to get water to my back pastures ......about a  550 foot run.  I am installing a shallow water line ....about 1 ft deep.   I connect the input with a short length of hose from an existing. I have a freezeless hydrant at the pasture that is set deep.

I will leave the 3’ of hose connected for 3 seasons giving me water to the pasture.  During most of winter I should be able to connect the hose for brief periods of time and disconnect. The pasture is slightly downhill from the house.  So, the freezeless hydrant should be able to do its job.  


Do note, this has not yet been used over the winter.
 
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Brian:

Any reason you're not considering just extending a line from the house system out into the pasture/barn?  A branch line can be relatively easy to add, and if you're just trying to water the small number of cattle you're planning on you won't need much (especially in the winter) so a small diameter line would work (1/2" pipe would be fine).  Filling a stock tank requires neither great pressure nor volume.
 
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Being in Canada complicates things in winter. Except for hard freezes I think building a pond might be the best solution. This particular pond is man made & hasn't dried out in over 50 years. Even in times of drought. Cows drink a lot of water. They like to wade too. An IBC really isn't much water for cows. Depending on electricity or human labor to keep one full has it's flaws. I would consider those 2 options as a backup plan. Cows are an expensive investment. They need a lot of water. Every day. Without fail.
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What distances is the pasture to the different options?

We have a water trailer as you describe for watering food plots.  It certainly is an option for watering animals depending on how often it would need to be filled.  

We water wildlife using a large Rubbermaid tank as you see at the farm stores. This is automatically filled using a timer and our well's pump.

We use a long heavy-duty garden hose which may be 100'.  The distance might be more than that, if so then we might have two hoses.

In our situation, it would be ideal if we ran PVC or at least the hose below the frost line.
 
Edward Norton
pollinator
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I was doing some rough calculations - Eastern Ontario gets roughy 1m of rain a year - this year was bad, so lets consider 60cm. That’s 600l per square meter / year. Rainfall is slightly higher in the summer when cows need more water. (Plug in your own rainfall numbers . . .) Assuming a cow needs between 20l and 60l per day. Worse case, on the water front, you have a cow and two steers drinking 180l a day. Most of the time, you’ll have a lot less. I’m sure you’ve already run the calculations. And then there’s climate change . . . So I’m going to over engineer.
(180 * 365 / 600) * 2 = 220m metres squared. You’d need some storage flexibility to deal with fluctuations and house well water as a back up. This years drought might be a sign of things to come. So, how much roof do you have to harvest water at your house? How big is your barn? Rain’s still free last time I checked . . .

Anyhoo - I’m not a farmer and only half way through my PDC. There’s a lot of emphasis on rainwater. I read somewhere, that if you only do one thing, collect rain water. I’m sure you’ll get answers from experienced cattle owners.
 
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