Off-site watering describes a system where cattle drink from a trough that pumps water from a nearby water source. The cost of setting up your own system may not be cheap; however, funding may be available from programs such as the Farm Energy and Agri-Processing Program (FEAP). We advise you to consult with a solar dealer to scope out a system that meets your specific needs.
Basic install and maintenance
A solar-powered off-site watering system may take as little as an hour to install. The system includes a water pump, solar panel, battery, electronics and watering trough. It should be placed at least 100 feet from the water source, ideally 200 feet. If you wish, you can mount the system onto a trailer so it can be moved to another location or stored in the winter. The system’s solar-powered battery recharges automatically.
Maintenance of the system involves checking the trough on a weekly basis. Adding goldfish to the water is a cheap and environmentally friendly way to keep the trough clean. If you do add goldfish, be sure not to release them into any water bodies, as they are an invasive species.
Benefits of off-site watering
Keeping herds away from fresh water sources such as creeks, rivers and dugouts benefits the livestock and the land. Cattle that drink from a trough instead of from dug outs and open waterways are less likely to get foot rot or other diseases, and their weight increases (calves by up to 9% and steers up to 16%). If a trough is available, cattle may travel up to two miles to drink from it, rather than wading into open water sources.
If a large number of cattle drink from an unprotected water source, the riparian growth along the banks may be negatively impacted. Healthy riparian areas improve water quality through filtration, and lessen the impacts of erosion and flooding. They also provide important habitat for fish and wildlife. Installing solar-powered watering troughs or protecting the growth along the banks with fencing will allow these areas to recover naturally.
This article may be reprinted with the credit: Alberta Environmental Farm Plan. For more how-to fact sheets or other information, visit www.albertaEFP.com.