Cattle producers battling foot rot issues may want to consider employing a solar watering system.
“By using these solar watering systems we have been able to fence off our sloughs and dugouts and that has dramatically improved our animal health. We haven’t seen foot rot on our farm for at least nine years. It is a non-issue now,” said Carl Driedger, Virden-area producer.
Driedger is keen about solar watering systems because of the benefits he has seen on his own farm. He has become a distributor for Sundog Solar and now works with other producers in setting up a watering system on their operations.
“One of the reasons I am so passionate about watering systems is because nature throws us many curves but by using a solar watering system we have a better chance,” he said. “If I didn’t have this system in place I wouldn’t be able to bale graze the way I do and the bale grazing has been a great benefit to our operation.”
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as well as provincial extension services have been recommending producers keep their herds away from fresh waterways through the use of off-site watering systems.
AAFC says remote winter watering systems allow producers to provide water to livestock during the winter outside of the traditional confinement yard while lowering costs and improving field fertility. Such systems decrease potential for leg injuries, fatalities, competition and water quality risks that are found with uncontrolled access to surface water.
The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association’s grazing club hosted Driedger on March 3 at the Brandon Agriculture Centre to provide an overview of different watering systems, how they are beneficial and advice on purchasing and setup.
“By providing a remote watering system for all seasons, the cattle are able to stay out of the corrals. This allows the manure to be spread out on the pasture. The corral cleaning bill decreases and the cattle’s health will improve,” Driedger said.
On his own operation, Driedger says he has doubled his carrying capacity and achieved increased weight gains.
“Since putting in a watering system we have doubled the capacity on our farm. By rotational grazing and having the watering systems on those paddocks, we have doubled our herd size. We are better able to utilize the water, per acre, per field and by having a consistent supply of fresh water cattle will eat more and you will see weight gain,” he said.
Implementing a system
When thinking about adding a solar watering system on your operation, Driedger recommends considering your water source, well depth, seasons you will need the device to operate, the transfer distance and the required output per day.
“Preplanning is so important. You need to plan to make sure you get the right pump for the worst-case scenario on the farm, and by the worst-case scenario, I mean the most lift and then also take into consideration that maybe you can use that solar system in the wintertime too, to get more bang for your buck,” said Driedger.
Driedger warns producers using watering systems in the wintertime to protect their batteries.
“Insulating the batteries in our country in wintertime is so important because if the battery power drops to 12.3 volts, they will freeze at -23. We need to try to keep them in an insulated box and prevent that freezing point.”
For winter use he also suggests considering adding a wind generator as it can fill in the power source on less sunny days.
“Solar panels are constantly evolving, they have become more affordable and their efficiencies have gone way up. But, wind generators are also helpful to make up for the dull days when the solar energy is low,” said Driedger.
“The solar system can provide you water from any source you want, be it the dugout, well, slough, or river, you can always find a way to use solar to provide the water. ”