Mark’s Farm Tips provide useful farming advice to help take your farm to its full potential — from Sota’s Agronomist & Farming Guru, Mark Crakanthorp.
A good trough is nearly as good an investment as a Sota Kubota! And, just as you would invest time and research into getting the best tractor for your needs, your watering system is deserving of similar attention.
When developing a block, put some thought into your watering points. Good, clean, fresh water is vital for raising animals. Having worked on dairy farms, I have seen grazing inefficiencies, where cows are spending unnecessary amounts of time in lanes walking back and forth for a drink. I realize the average small acreage owner is not trying to set productivity records, but, there has actually been a lot of research done on the subject showing worthwhile gains in productivity are attainable. Plus, I might add anecdotally, I have come to the conclusion that cattle, like teenagers, are either eating or up to no good. They also drink a darn lot, too.
It is possible for a lactating cow to drink 200L of water per day in hot weather. So, what trough should you use? Well, you can probably work out what size is required with a pretty simple formula, using paddock size and stocking rates. But to truly understand what type of trough to use one must know thy enemy. Please indulge me as I give you an insight into cow psychology.
Now, all cattle are essentially vandals. Nothing warms their black little hearts more than making a mockery of our feeble agrarian structures. Tree guards, fences, races and crushes are all fair game. Cows view troughs as particularly arrogant, and deserving of more focused vilification. (I guess anything with a ball, a cock and a leaky, intermittent valve is just asking for it, in a female hierarchy).
When selecting a trough, be sure it is sturdy and the ball and cock is located where cattle can not damage it. Overflowing and wasting water is to be avoided, particularly if the herd is left unattended for extended periods. A valve mechanism that is easy to maintain and adjust is thoroughly recommended. Your next consideration is getting water to the trough.
Leaky water pipes and troughs are the bane of a farmer’s life. Digging holes is unpleasant and one usually finds the elusive pipe at the exquisite moment when pipe and shovel intersect.
You are probably better off laying some new poly. A Silvan ripper/pipe layer is just what the doctor ordered, here. Your mighty Sota Kubota loves nothing better than throwing itself into some real low range graft. If and when your pipe goes under roadways, or up to the trough itself – anywhere sharp stones, road-base or blue metal can be compacted by traffic, extra care needs to be taken. A good idea is to cut a length of wider diameter poly, and run the waterline through it. This gives it a bit of protection.
When dealing with poly pipe and associated fittings it is important to use the grade of fittings that match the pipe. Beware, there are lots out there. Selecting the wrong fittings usually requires a return trip into town. As far as possible, use the same grade and diameter poly pipe for the whole farm – this makes maintenance much easier in the long run. The liberal use of thread tape is also important. Your future sanity will depend on it. For tightening and undoing the poly fittings, I’ve found that those fabric or rubber oil filter removers do an excellent job.
Leading up to the trough, the final few metres of trench will have to be done by hand, most likely. It might be a good idea to lay the water pipe inside some larger diameter pipe, because, as mentioned before, material may be put there in the future. Cattle, being the environmental terrorists they are, will eventually chop and hollow out around the trough. Before you start filling the trench, it is a good idea to start filling the trough to check for any leaks.
That, my friends is just about it. Done properly, it should give years of good service. Until cattle evolve opposable digits, we should have no worries, – and peace of mind when we’re off the farm too.