Having a steady water supply can be one of the biggest challenges for ranchers in a drought year. When water supplies are low, water quality becomes even more important. Herschel George, watershed specialist for the Kansas State University Research and Extension in southeast Kansas, says more cattle producers have been interested in using recycled tires from equipment as water tanks.
These tanks are made by cutting out the top sidewall of the tires with a Sawzall, and pouring about four inches of concrete inside the bead with plumbing running through it. "I try to show guys that it can be done farmer friendly," George says, demonstrating one of his tanks at the Four-State Farm Show near Pittsburg, Kansas. "You don't have to have a lot of technical equipment to do it."
George prefers to use geotextile fabric underneath these tanks about 6 to 8 inches of gravel on top of the fabric. "The fabric is there to prevent mud from coming up through your rock," he explains, noting some people simply prefer to use bigger rocks, which helps form a base and prevents it from eroding. "With the geotextile fabric, we don't have as much of a problem with that."
Keeping cattle off the bank
One of the biggest benefits of using these tanks is providing higher-quality water. A lot of this benefit comes from reduced erosion of dams and banks. "Our objective is to water livestock somewhere other than the bank of the creek," George explains. "Research indicates that if a waterer is installed in a pasture with a stream, 80% of the livestock drinking will be from the tank – that's a lot easier than trying to fence off 80% of your creek."
It also prevents cattle from loitering as long in the riparian area along the stream, which can result in problems with urine and manure getting into water sources, and certain waterborne diseases. Although in hot, dry weather, cattle tend to stand in points and streams more often, George notes using a tank system can help reduce the time cattle are in the riparian area by 60%.
Where solar power works
George also demonstrated the use of two 85-watt solar panels to power the Sunpump diaphragm pump. This pump system can pressure water up to 42 PSI, or 4 plus gallons of water a minute in full sun. "It is my recommendation for producers to store 2 to 3 days of water in larger livestock watering tanks or large storage tanks, rather than storing energy in batteries, however there are times that it is more practical to add batteries to systems," he says.
Solar power is especially beneficial in some places from an economic standpoint. "I don't recommend solar systems unless the site is at least a quarter mile away from the electrical grid. You can operate it in a remote location," he notes. "You don't have to have electricity nearby."