Ways to transfer water for stock watering

July 2021

Finding efficient stock watering solutions is a high priority on any farm that raises cows, sheep, chickens, or other livestock. The process of transferring water for stock watering involves moving water from one location to another in an effort to deliver the required volume of water, preserving water quality whilst doing so cheaply and efficiently.

Typically, water is pumped from a water source via a water transfer pump and delivered through a pipeline. The water source could be a bore, lake, river, creek, spring, dam, or storage tank, usually positioned in an elevated position throughout the property. Locating the water source at a higher elevation maximizes the gravity-fed mechanism, and assists the flow of water to moveable water troughs located at lower elevations.

So what are the benefits of transferring water for livestock water?

One of the biggest benefits of transferring water away from the water source relates to preserving the water quality at the source. Large numbers of livestock at the water source tend to muddy the banks of the water, a phenomenon known as cattle bogging, foul up the water causing muddy water and possible contamination from livestock waste. This ultimately leads to a reduction in the water quality, degradation of the soil around the water source, and possible livestock injury and deconditioning.

Sheep drinking from a natural water source

Research has shown that cattle provided with fresher water will drink more, eat more and gain weight more quickly. Livestock watering via a water trough with fresh clean water transferred from a water source typically results in cattle gaining more weight than if they were drinking dam surface water. It appears that livestock prefers to drink out of a water trough because the water is cleaner, more palatable, and easier to access. Water requirements do vary from animal to animal and other factors such as feed type, feed quality, livestock breed, livestock age, weather conditions, available shelter, water usage, and water quality need to be considered when working out a stock watering solution.

Cow drinking from stock watering system

Access and flexibility are also key reasons farmers choose to transfer water to livestock rather than allowing livestock to access the water source. Cost-savvy farmers understand that the initial cost of installing a stock watering solution far outweighs the long-term cost of not, with increases in productivity, preserve water quality, and flourishing livestock being the clear winners.

Stock watering solutions allow farmers to control both the quality and quantity of their water. Water transfer systems give control to the delivery of the water, giving livestock access to water where and when they need it. In areas where there are natural predators, pumping the water away from the water source provides safety for the livestock. Pumping the water away from the water source can also protect against the spread of weeds and livestock being trapped in flash flooding. In relation to water quality, it is proven that stock water is better stored in a water tank rather than a dam as water quality is higher and there is reduced loss from seepage and evaporation.

Apart from the obvious flexibility of location, stock watering solutions can also be used to deliver water medication to supplement cattle and to distribute the herd away from the water source. Mustering is easier and the chance of livestock being trapped at the water source less likely, e.g. if there are steep banks.

The key to any stock watering solution is to constantly test the water quality. All water should be tested for acceptable levels of salinity and pH before giving it to stock. The water should be free from toxic elements and chemicals and free of contamination from algae or foul materials. There are various water testing kits available or you can send your water to be tested professionally. Ideally, skim off the surface of the water daily and refill and clean the troughs every couple of days. Livestock generally prefers to drink water that is lower than their body temperature so keep the water freshly pumped, clean, and of the highest quality.

The many benefits gained by transferring water to water livestock have increased demand for stock watering solutions, with many innovative solutions available.

Stock watering solutions

There are various ways to transfer water for stock watering. A very popular watering solution involves the use of moveable water troughs which allow better use of the paddock, reduce erosion risk, and increase animal performance. Water troughs have the benefits of being easily transported, easily monitored, they protect natural watercourses and require minimum maintenance.

Reticulation is another popular method of transferring water as opposed to carting water in mobile water tanks. Piping or moving the water from the water source to the water trough is much more efficient than manual water carting. Reticulation approaches work well, especially when water transfer is enhanced via a natural gravity-fed process.

Pumping water for stock watering has long been used as a way of improving water quality and supply for livestock. Traditionally, windmills have been integral to this process. However, advances in pumping solutions have led to farmers upgrading their pumping systems with more reliable options such as fuel, electric, or solar-powered pumps.

This case study looks at how a Tasmanian farmer upgraded their windmill and livestock watering system using a sustainable, solar-powered bore pump as part of an overall water transfer system.

Ultimately, the method you use will depend on the needs of your livestock and the constraints of your property. Our experts at Think Water can help you work out an efficient solution click here to find your local Think Water store.