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Shallow-buried pasture pipelines – An option for watering livestock

By Michelle Panko, PAg, Program Information Specialist

June 2019

As 2019 brings another dry year to Saskatchewan, we are hearing from livestock producers that water may be a limiting factor on some pasture lands.  Many producers rely on dugouts or sloughs for watering livestock in pastures, but in dry years, both water quantity and water quality can be a concern.

When existing sources go dry or the water quality becomes unacceptable for livestock use, cattle may need to travel further to find suitable water. If the cattle are unwilling to travel long distances, some pastures may become overgrazed and others may not be utilized at all. Providing cattle with access to clean and secure water supplies will not only improve the productivity of livestock operations, but proper development and management of water resources has the ability to improve environmental, herd health and pasture utilization concerns.

Shallow-buried pasture pipelines are one option for water quantity and quality problems as it allows producers to put the water where they want it, even where no natural water source exists. These pipelines are typically installed by a tractor pulling a plough which can both cut the sod and install pipe in one pass. Troughs are usually placed at the end of the pipeline. Benefits from watering cattle from troughs include improved weight gains and conception rates, and reduced foot rot or losses from cattle getting bogged down in a mud hole.

Components of a shallow-buried pasture pipeline project include the following:

  1. Reliable water source, having both sufficient quantity and quality of water;
  2. Power source;
  3. Pump;
  4. Pipe; and
  5. Troughs.

Shallow-buried pasture pipelines are generally fed from a proven farmyard well or other secure water source that is also close to a power source. Electricity is the preferred power source as it is usually the most reliable and efficient; however, solar power or generators may be considered depending on your situation. Pipe is usually high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and troughs are generally filled with a float valve system.

Pipeline systems can range from a simple system that pumps a short distance to one trough to an extensive systems running many miles and feeding multiple troughs. Considerations when designing a shallow buried pasture pipeline include:

  1. Discharge requirements (flow);
  2. Pressurized system or gravity flow;
  3. Distance: source to distribution;
  4. Elevation difference: source to distribution including variation along route;
  5. Permanence (year-round or seasonal);
  6. Environmental, municipal or regulatory approvals;
  7. Monitoring, maintenance or back-up water/electrical supply; and
  8. Future expansion, if applicable.

Pipelines may be an economical solution to water quality and quantity issues. Shallow-buried pipelines are for summer use only and will need to be blown out in the fall so they do not freeze. Shallow-buried pipelines are eligible under the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP). Interested producers should review the detailed program information to manage expectations around eligibility, regulatory permits or approvals and eligible costs. Pipelines must be buried to be eligible and certain components such as power/electrical costs are not covered under the program.

The Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program, funded under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), provides 50 per cent cost-shared rebate funding for Saskatchewan producers who complete water development projects such as wells, dugouts and pipelines. The program encourages environmental sustainability by supporting the development of secure and sustainable water sources for agriculture use in Saskatchewan.

Detailed program information can be found on the FRWIP web page.  Inquiries can be made to the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 and they will direct you to the appropriate specialist.

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