Watering Systems for Grazing Livestock


1 Watering Systems for Grazing Livestock Livestock must have free access to per minute (gpm) are required to keep Erosion problems in lanes leading to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times water, especially in high slope pastures, the tank full. Usually it is best to locate to be productive. This holds true for tanks along fence lines somewhat can have a negative impact on the livestock on pasture as well as in the grazing system. central to the paddock. Centralization barn. This publication is a short of waterers is more critical for paddocks Allowing livestock direct access to reference with recommendations about larger than 10 acres and when grazing how to efficiently provide water to ponds, streams, or springs will result in high-producing dairy cows. Changing grazing livestock. It is assumed that bank deterioration, water pollution, and water location along the fence line from poor quality water. Instead, fence off some form of grazing management is time to time will help reduce localized the water source and install drinking the norm, including rotation of animals damage to forage if this is a problem. among pasture subdivisions, frequently fountains or tanks fed by the source. called paddocks, to optimize forage and The installation of water lines to get livestock production from the system. Quantities and supply rates water to all paddocks can be a major Water requirements depend on hurdle. If water only can be supplied at Location of water tanks temperature, stage of production, and locations central to the total grazing It is preferable to deliver water to water content of the diet. As a rule, area, try to keep maximum travel 1 ⁄ 4 mile. animals will consume approximately animals than to force them to walk long distances for animals under two times their daily dry matter intake distances to satisfy their thirst. There- When livestock must walk some fore, the source of water is not always in water. At times, much of the water distance to a centralized water supply, the best location for the water tank. can be provided in forage; however, they tend to move to water and drink water supply should be designed for the Development of a water system that socially as a group. In this case, allow delivers water to each paddock, as worst case scenario—hot, dry weather adequate tank size or trough length so (see Table 1). See Table 2 for recom- opposed to one or two centralized that 10 percent of the herd or flock can mended reservoir sizes and delivery drinking locations for the entire pasture drink at one time. Make sure there is area, should be a priority for all grazing rates. When developing a water system, adequate flow or tank reserve to keep in mind possible expansion in the systems. Individual paddock water provide enough water for the entire devices increase livestock energy grazing area, or grazing intensity that herd to drink within 20 minutes or less. will increase the number of animals to efficiency and reduce parasite loads that Provide adequate open area so that the be watered. can occur in areas around centralized entire herd does not have to remain water tanks. bunched up around the tank or in the Water quality lane leading to the tank waiting their Livestock tend to drink individually Water quality influences how much turn to drink. Although water will where water is supplied to paddocks water livestock drink. They will be remain a little cooler, it is not advisable that are 10 acres or less in size. In this more reluctant to drink bad-tasting or to have the tank located under shade situation, small movable tanks or tubs contaminated water and, therefore, may because this will encourage animals to that hold between 25 and 35 gallons allow themselves to become more rest in an area that will not be as dry or connected to a water supply are stressed before drinking. If animals “clean” as the rest of the pasture. sufficient. Flow rates of 2 to 6 gallons drink less they will consume less dry matter and, as a result, production will be affected. 1 Pm-1604 / April 1995

2 1 Central water source with Table 1. Daily water consumption by adult animals short supply lines Hot Weather Livestock Average Maintenance This section describes a centralized water system with one short water line 8-12 20-25 Beef cattle between the source and the tank. In 30-40 20-25 Milking cow this system, gravity flow works well for Sheep 2-3 3-4 ponds when there is room to place a Swine 6-8 8-12 tank below the dam and the area is 9-10 Beef calf 4-5 well drained. Intakes suspended 8-12 Horse 20-25 18-36 inches below the pond surface 1 will withdraw the best quality water. Approximate amounts in gallons per day (gpd) Figure 1 shows one suggested design for a homemade suspended inlet. 2 1 and reservoir capacities Table 2. System flow rates Delivery rates from a 100-ft. conduit of 1-inch diameter pipe under 6 ft. of head A. System flow rates (gpm): 3 ⁄ 4 gpm, and will be approximately 4 * minimum flow to waterer 3 1 1 -inch 6 ⁄ gpm with 12 ft. of head. A 1 ⁄ 2 4 ⁄ 2 gpm — total daily consumption in gallons divided by 240 but not less than per animal drinking at one time diameter pipe under 6 ft. of head will * minimum continuous flow with storage capacity for one or more day’s deliver approximately 14 gpm, and consumption 20 gpm with 12 ft. of head. Existing — maximum daily consumption divided by 1,440 ponds should be evaluated for location with respect to the planned grazing B. Storage recommendations (reservoir capacity) area and capacity to supply adequate * flow rate is less than instantaneous demand — one day’s consumption quantities of water. * intermittent power sources are used to pump water (i.e. solar, wind, etc.): — two or more day’s consumption New ponds for water supply are eligible for cost-share payments in many Soil C. Waterer space minimums: and Water Conservation Districts, but * cup, bowl, or small tub when water is available in each paddock and livestock generally drink one at a time only if the primary purpose of the pond — appropriate for 20-25 animals is considered to be soil erosion control * tank or trough at centralized water supply and water management. Even with — room for 10 percent of animals to drink at one time cost-share, development expense may 1 exceed the cost of piping water from gallons in one cubic foot of water. 2 There are 7 ⁄ Note: existing water sources farther from the 1 In gallons per minute (gpm) pasture. Pond locations are strictly 2 In gallons limited to topography. Locations of new ponds with respect to the grazing area The U.S. Environmental Protection vary by species and age of livestock. can significantly affect cost and Agency recommends that livestock Contact a veterinarian for more specific complexity of the entire grazing system. water contain less than 5,000 coliform recommendations. organisms per 100 milliliters. (For Nose-operated pumps work well for human consumption, there should be Clean water tanks, troughs, and cattle but in most cases are too difficult no coliform organisms.) The recom- reservoirs periodically. Although water for calves to operate. They have limited mended “safe” upper limits for nitrates temperature is not critical, it will help applications in cases where it is range from 100 to 440 milligrams per reduce heat stress if water is a few desirable to provide water in every liter (mg/l), depending on species and degrees cooler than air temperature paddock. These pumps cost about $400 nitrate in feed. Sulfate recommenda- during hot weather. and allow versatility in drawing water tions for livestock drinking water short distances from ponds, streams, and shallow wells. Maximum lift is about 24 feet. Each pump can handle between 20 and 25 cows. 2

3 A simple float is a one-gallon milk Note: 3'-0" minimum container anchored to shore; a small weight keeps the intake under water. End plug Drill 1/4-inch holes about 32 per foot. Wrap twice with copper or plastic screen. Fasten screen with stainless hose clamps. A well point also can be used. Expanded foam drum float with rust resistant paint 18" minimum Suspended intake or below ice with separate cable to facilitate cleaning Anchor Flexible pipe, pipe, below Suspended with 1 1/4-inch minimum, freezing cable and/or below frost depth chain, allow for high water Anchor , MWPS-14, 4th edition, 1979 Source: Reproduced with permission from Private Water Systems Handbook Midwest Plan Service, Ames, IA 50011-3080  Figure 1. Homemade suspended intake frequently less than 10 percent. Gas- or diesel-powered pumps offer pumped will overflow the storage high labor alternatives to pumping Therefore, provisions for draining structure. Controlled overflow is tailwater away from the ram must be water to reservoirs and water tanks. needed to avoid erosion and wet provided when using this pumping Various levels of automation can be ground around the tank. device. applied. Automatic shut-off is fairly simple to accomplish; however, Other pumping devices that do not automatic start is a more complex require external power sources are Long-term grazing systems should not operation. water or hydraulic rams, water wheels, be developed on the basis of hauling and sling pumps. Costs range between water to livestock in water wagons, Wind and solar power technology also $500 and $1,000, but they are appropri- although this might be considered as a offer alternative energy sources for ate only in unique locations and temporary solution or in emergency pumping water for livestock. These situations. For example, sling pumps situations. The cost of hauling water systems generally cost anywhere require flowing streams at least one mile is about $0.01 per gallon. between $1,500 and $4,000 to install, 12-18 inches deep. Water rams are depending on quantity of water to be driven by the force of falling water and Distribution systems pumped, lift required, and sophistica- work only where water can be piped for individual paddocks tion of equipment. If a tank or reservoir from the source to lower ground, where In most cases, pumping water through is used to store at least a two-day water the ram works on a hydraulic principle a system of pipes and valves is required supply, storage batteries are not needed and forces a portion of the water to to provide water for all paddocks or to provide electrical energy to pump higher elevations. Hydraulic rams waste pasture subdivisions. Such a distribu- water on demand. Systems without large portions of water. They seldom tion system also requires a pump that automatic controls should be closely pump more than 20 percent of the can develop sufficient pressure to push matched to need because excess water water required for operation and water through several hundred feet of 3

4 3 piping and perhaps several elbows, companies have developed new, more 4 ⁄ - to 2-inch diameters. range from junctions, and valves, to a tank that durable above-ground piping systems Always use pressure-rated piping, and may be at an elevation many feet above and quick coupler hydrants that select UV-stabilized pipe for above- the water supply, at a rate sufficient to reduce but do not eliminate the ground use. One-inch black plastic pipe satisfy the thirst of the animals. Due potential for winter freeze and rupture. costs approximately 25 cents per foot, 1 to relatively low flow rates (about UV-stable, polyethylene portable tanks -inch pipe is about 50 cents per ⁄ 2 and 1 1 ⁄ 4 -horsepower electric 2-6 gpm), a (30-35 gallons) with float valves and foot. For above-ground use, white pipe pump often is sufficient. quick coupling devices cost approxi- will stay slightly cooler than black, but mately $150. it costs approximately twice as much as Pipes less than 1-inch diameter are black pipe. If water lines are placed in 1 ⁄ seldom recommended, and 1 -inch 2 the fence row, they will be less suscep- A poorly designed or installed piping diameter pipe should be considered for tible to livestock damage and will be system can result in an inadequate 1 mile. Refer to ⁄ 4 distances more than quickly shaded by vegetation. water supply to animals, even though Figure 2 as a guide for plastic pipe the source is adequate. When paddocks selection to keep pressure losses in the are developed, evaluate the layout for Buried lines are protected from animal line within reasonable, low levels. watering locations to minimize costs. damage and will stay cooler than above- Water supply equipment dealers may ground lines. The cost of trenched-in Flexible white or black plastic pipe is be able to provide additional assistance plastic water line is approximately available in 100-ft. coils. Common sizes in water system design. $1.00 to $1.50 per foot. Some supply Length of pipe, in feet Flow Rate gpm 900 400 300 200 150 100 75 50 600 500 700 800 25 or Less 1500 2000 1000 3000 1/2" 2 3 3/4" 4 1 1/4" 5 1" 6 7 1 1/2" 8 2" 10 , MWPS-14, Private Water Systems Handbook Source: Reproduced with permission from 4th edition, 1979. Midwest Plan Service, Ames, IA 50011-3080  Figure 2. Recommended sizes for outdoor uses—Schedule 40 thermoplastic pipe File: Engineering 1-1 and justice for all Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State Prepared by Grant Wells, extension The Iowa Cooperative Extension Service’s University of Science and Technology and agricultural engineering field specialist. programs and policies are consistent with the United States Department of Agricul- Reviewed by Don Morrical, extension pertinent federal and state laws and regu- ture cooperating. Robert M. Anderson, Jr., livestock specialist; Tom Glanville, lations on nondiscrimination regarding extension agricultural engineer; and director, Ames, Iowa. Distributed in race, color, national origin, religion, sex, David Rausch, extension agricultural furtherance of the Acts of Congress of age, and disability. engineering field specialist. May 8 and June 30, 1914. 4

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