Farm Talk

Area Farm & Ranch News

September 11, 2012

Watering systems that do more than just provide water

Parsons, Kansas — Nearly 120 visitors were on hand for the Kansas State University Bressner Pasture Field Day held recently in rural Woodson County.

The Bressner Pasture, which totals over 600 acres, was donated to the Kansas State University Foundation in 1988 by Willie J. Bressner without restrictions.

Mr. Bressner did, however, request that the pasture be utilized as an experimental project to study the preservation and use of native grasses.

Over the years a number of research projects have been conducted on the Bressner site.

The main project was a seven-year research project that focused on patch-burn versus full burn pastures each spring and subsequent cattle performance and plant composition changes.

It’s no secret, when doing research with cattle, forage is necessary. However, another necessary element is water.

As researchers continue to find better ways to grow forage and add gain to livestock, water quality and quantity have become another essential element according to Herschel George, K-State watershed specialist.

“We have worked for years to get producers to see the benefits of getting cattle away from streams or ponds,” George explained. “After the past couple years and the weather we have experienced we are finally getting people to see the importance of it.”

According to him, cattle that wade through mud get stuck and those cattle wading in ponds and streams urinate and defecate in the water, causing unneeded and unwanted levels of bacteria in the water.

In order to keep ponds and streams clean and to control pond dam erosion the water quality specialist recommends installing tire tanks.

“Tire tanks provide a clean supply of water without the concerns of having cattle in the water source,” George said. “We have seen after installing tire tanks in pastures with streams through them that 80 percent of the drinking is done at the tank instead of the stream.”

George recommends installing a 30.5X32 tire for tanks.

“A tire this size will hold 150-200 gallons and six cows can drink out of it at once,” he said.

Visitors at the recent Bressner Pasture Field Day witnessed a tire tank this size that George had installed below one of the ponds.

According to him, during the fall of 2011, the pond was cleaned with a dozer and a six inch primary spillway pipe was installed along with a two-inch livestock watering pipe.

“With the growing cost of cleaning ponds we decided to fence-off the pond reducing erosion and wear and tear on the pond,” George said.

At the site, George recommends using geotextile and gravel under the tank and the drinking area to keep the ground solid.

“After running the lines and installing the tank we added a valve and a float in the tank to control the tank at the desired level for livestock,” he explained. “An overflow line was added to keep the site dry and to aid in freeze prevention during the winter.”

Although George is sold on using tire tanks he told visitors at the field day that they are not the only option.

“Another way to keep ponds clean and erosion free is to use a limited access approach for drinking animals,” he said.

The Bressner site features two limited access pond entry systems.

One of the systems used semi-trailer treads in a pattern to allow the cattle to have access to the stream.

“The treads were cut then straightened out and screwed together allowing the cattle to walk on them to the stream,” George said.

The second system also used semi-trailer tires. This time, however, one of the sidewalls was cut out of the tire and they were placed on geotextile as closely as possible with the open side up. Gravel was then added to the site to fill the tires up.

“Our thought was that the rock would fill the tires, preventing the gravel from working downhill off of the geotextile into the pond,” George explained.

After the geotextile was laid and covered with gravel a floating electric exclusion fence was built to only allow a certain area of access to the pond.

“All of these systems have proved to keep cattle out of the ponds and off the pond dams while at the same time giving them a cleaner drinking source,” George concluded.£

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