Water improvements more cost-effective in long run
June 6, 2011
Grazing livestock need plentiful, reliable, good quality water. It doesn’t matter how effective other grazing management practices are if good water isn’t available.
Cattle resist traveling far from water. They graze very little when more than a half mile away from water in rough country or a mile away on flat land. The ideal location is under 1,000 feet. If they have to travel far for water, they spend less time grazing, burn off pounds walking and graze distant areas incompletely.
Poor water distribution transfers nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients as manure and urine are deposited near water sites or along the path to water. In these deposits, nutrients are concentrated and wasted in areas with little grass. Evenly distributing these deposits would grow more grass.
There are ways to improve water distribution. Having more ponds, windmills, wells and dugouts will help, but they can get expensive. Also, they can only be placed in certain locations and can’t be moved. One suggestion is to use a pipeline, which can be placed almost anywhere and is less expensive than some people might think. Often pipe and frost-proof trenching can be purchased for less than $1 per foot, especially if someone obtains cost-share funds. Also, trenching costs can be saved if the pipe is left on top of the ground and water is needed only during the growing season.
Water improvements ultimately pay for themselves with better grass and improved animal performance.