By Hillary Luchinski AAg, Agri-Environmental Specialist, Humboldt, and Karen Smith PAg, Ag Programs Specialist, Tisdale
There are many reasons why a properly designed watering system is an advantage to your livestock operation. Watering systems provide livestock with clean, good-quality water which will improve overall herd health. Remote watering systems also preserve riparian areas and provide environmental benefits including improved water quality and wildlife habitat. When riparian areas are preserved, it is a win for the producer, their livestock, wildlife and the environment.
A riparian area is the "green zone" between waterbodies or watercourses and their surrounding uplands. A healthy riparian area is thick with deep-rooted grasses, trees and shrubs. They hold our shorelines together while cycling nutrients (including water) and slowing down and dissipating floodwater energy. Riparian zones are also important to wildlife because they provide food, water and shelter. Almost all of our Saskatchewan wildlife depends on riparian areas for survival at some point in their life cycles. Incorporating and maintaining the health of these areas on our farming operations increases biodiversity and ensures these resources remain for many years to come.
Riparian areas are often high producing and provide an important grazing resource. They are also sensitive areas and considerations should be made regarding the location of your water source, to ensure they are not damaged as animals naturally prefer to graze close to water sources. Maintaining several watering systems around your pasture will help distribute your grazing pressure more evenly as well as take the pressure off riparian areas.
Maintaining our riparian areas with tools like off-site watering systems demonstrates good land stewardship. Remote watering systems allow producers to limit livestock access to riparian areas during sensitive times, which improves water quality by preventing damage to the shorelines and trampling of riparian plants. These plants are crucial for filtering contaminants out before they reach our water bodies and by maintaining a healthy buffer zone, sediment and pollutants are kept out of streams and wetlands.
Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), the Ministry of Agriculture has several programs available to your operation. The Farm Stewardship Program offers a cost-sharing opportunity of 50 per cent of eligible costs to a maximum of $10,000 to help producers with fencing to restrict livestock access to riparian areas. If you are considering installing a new dugout, well or pipeline for agricultural use, be sure to check out our Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program. Funding for the development of new projects, which may include watering systems, is available up to a maximum rebate of $50,000 at 50 per cent of eligible costs.
For more information on available programs, contact an Agriculture Programs Specialist or an Agri-Environmental Specialist at a Ministry of Agriculture regional office near you or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.