Watering Livestock in Cropland


Livestock water can be the limiting factor in any grazing situation. Whether you want to cell graze native grass, recoup some seed cost by grazing your cover crops, or get some fall grazing on milo stalks, the need for livestock water can be the end of the conversation. Hauling water gets old fast in most farm operations.

Although we have funded a few demonstration projects that provide a permanent watering system in cropland, these set-ups can get expensive at $5,000-7,000 each for a well, permanent tank, and a solar pump. Having a permanent set-up tends to increase the negative impact around the tank and requires a similar investment at each field. Once the system is in, there is little flexibility in how it is used. While permanent watering points can work well in native grass, we’re looking for systems that allow more flexibility with less cost.

Within a crop field, a portable watering system allows the most efficient use of your forage with minimal impact to the soil. You want to ensure that you can get water to every slice of your rotation even when your paddock size and fence positions change throughout the grazing season. Ideally, you could move pumps, tanks, and/or pipe between fields. A mobile water trough connected to a network of polyethylene pipes with quick-connect couplers might be just the ticket if you are moving cattle daily to fresh grazing. Or maybe you use a water trough mounted on a trailer with flexible water line on a reel. Troughs don’t need to be overly big if the cattle are always close enough to get water without moving as a herd to the tank.  Many systems incorporate tanks made from half of a 55-gallon drum. Understanding cattle behavior and tapping your creativity could lead to some cost-effective solutions for water availability. We are interested in your ideas for providing livestock water in temporary systems. Think simple, creatively, and use the least bells and whistles possible. Let us know how we can be of assistance with your ideas.