Less costly than solar, generators | Pasture pipelines are eco friendly and deliver quality water
LAKE FRANCIS, Man. — Henry Rosing leaned against a pick-up truck parked at the entrance to a hay field on a cool but sunny August morning.
Two massive truck tires sat on the back of a trailer a few metres away, but they weren’t typical heavy equipment tires. Instead, they had been refitted as water troughs for cattle.
Rosing, manager of EUR Ranch on the east side of Lake Manitoba, said the pipelines that deliver water to these kinds of troughs are the most economical and reliable way to water cattle on summer pasture.
“Any farmer that wants to deliver water to cattle within a mile of … a site where there is a well and hydro for summer watering, plowing in a pipeline is the cheapest way to go,” said Rosing, who spoke during a stop on the Manitoba Provincial Pasture Tour held in the eastern Interlake in early August.
He has used pasture pipelines to water cattle at EUR Ranch for more than a decade.
The farm also uses solar water pumps and generators to deliver water to cattle on pasture, but Rosing said pasture pipelines are more reliable and economical.
“Solar is fine, but it is a significant investment and you have continuous costs with replacing expensive batteries every few years,” he said. “Pumping with generators, we do that too, but you have wear and tear on the generator and you have fuel cost…. Both systems… need more TLC than a pipeline.”
Pasture pipelines gained traction with Manitoba cattle producers in the 2000s, but adoption rates have plummeted over the last several years.
“We started to get some fair inroads with (the system). Then it started wet in 2008 and the cattle could drink anywhere they stood, and installation of pipelines dropped to just about nil,” said Ray Bittner, a Manitoba Agriculture farm production adviser in Ashern.
“This is the first year that guys are actually starting to think, ‘let’s get back to doing a good job with our water.’ ”
Bittner said pasture pipelines are cheap to install.
The tire trough costs approximately $600 with the plumbing hardware. The pipeline is around 50 cents a foot. So, a pipeline across a section of land would cost approximately $2,500.
“If you can get within two miles of your pasture, from a hydro metre and a good well, going in with underground pipeline is one of the best ideas,” Bittner said.
“Once you have a good pipeline and good troughs, it pretty much takes care of itself.”
However, Bittner said it’s important to install high-density polyethylene pipe.
“This stuff is very resistant to cracking, very resistant to stone bruising and those types of things,” he said.
Pasture pipelines also deliver a consistent source of high quality water.
“If you hook it up to your house watering system, your cattle are drinking just as good of water as you are,” he said.
Pipelines reduce the amount of time that cattle stand in water, which minimizes the risk of foot rot.
Rosing placed his tire watering troughs on gravel ridges, which direct cattle onto firmer ground and away from low lying areas.
“As you go more into rotational grazing and concentrate cattle more, in wet years cattle traffic is a huge problem,” Rosing said.
“So you’ll reduce a lot of cattle impact on a wetland or lower area.”
Rosing’s pasture pipeline system proved valuable last year when an extremely hot and dry summer emptied dugouts across Manitoba.
A number of producers had to move cattle to water sources in August, but Rosing was able keep animals on pasture into the fall.
He said pasture pipelines make economic sense for producers, but the cattle industry as a whole benefits from modern watering systems.
“It is one of those things where we can improve things from an environmental and ecosystem standpoint,” he said.
“Cattle standing in water, in riparian areas, doesn’t really help the image of cattle on pasture with the greater public.”