Sun powers livestock watering system

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HOPEDALE, Ohio – In the hilly, strip-mined countryside of Harrison and Jefferson counties, cattlemen sometimes struggle with their cow herds.

One of their biggest problems – despite recent abundant rainfall and ponds built in the reclaimed land – is getting water to the herd.

Conservation-friendly herdsmen string fence to keep cattle from plodding through the creeks, forcing them to rely on other methods of keeping water troughs full in divided paddocks.

Looking over the property at Bob Morrison’s Land of Hills farm, Stillwater Creek watershed coordinator Melissa Griffith – a dairy farmer herself – knows the struggle firsthand.

“If you give a cow water over on the other side of that hill, she’d stay over there and eat that grass all day,” she said, pointing across the hills and valleys.

Nature at work. Last week, nearly 50 cattlemen gathered at Morrison’s farm, near Hopedale on the county divide, to see operation of a pump fueled entirely by the sun.

The Harrison County Soil and Water Conservation District acquired the portable solar pump and collection tank through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The test run at Morrison’s cow-calf and stocker operation showcased the $1,800 solar panel and pump, offered as an option to provide a reliable water source where electricity is not available and gravity-fed systems aren’t feasible.

Soil and water conservation personnel hope the system will show alternatives herdsmen can use to keep their livestock out of streams, reducing stream bank erosion and sediment and pollutant transport.

System specifications. This particular model can pump water from old wells, cisterns, creeks, ponds and other tanks up to 100 feet in elevation and 600 feet in length.

Other models are also available that can pump water pocketed deeper in the ground and over longer distances, Griffith said.

The variable speed pump can move roughly 90 gallons per hour with full sun, enough to maintain about 45 beef brood cows, according to Griffith. She said the system would support significantly fewer dairy cows.

The system also includes a 1,000-gallon holding tank – enough to tide over the herd on cloudy or rainy days – and 100-gallon poly trough.

Borrowed idea. Griffith said this system is patterned after one developed by cattlemen in the northern panhandle of West Virginia to solve their water woes.

The method seemed like a good fit on the hillside pastures of east central Ohio, where intensive grazing systems force paddock designs to change with each rotation.

Each time the fence is moved, the cattle are moved further from their water source, a move that requires special attention by cattlemen.

The solar watering system has few basic requirements, including a reliable water source and plenty of sunlight.

The Harrison County setup is entirely contained on a bumper-hitched trailer and offers complete mobility.

Give it a try. Throughout the summer and fall, the system will travel throughout Belmont, Guernsey, Tuscarawas, Harrison, Jefferson, Muskingum and Carroll counties for demonstrations.

The system is available to farmers for field trials by calling Griffith at 740-942-8837.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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