Weight gain at Kalabity from piped water
Despite years of below average rainfall, one south west Victorian beef enterprise has devised a watering system that has resulted in markedly increased cattle growth rates. The difference, they say, is clean water.
Spending $30 per hectare to reticulate a beef production enterprise has proven to be an excellent investment for one Black Angus producer.
Scott Farquharson, of Bushy Park Angus, says his own trials have shown that cattle on clean drinking water put on 10 per cent more weight than cattle on muddy dam water.
"At current prices, that's around $40 per head per year," Scott says.
Scott and his partner, Penny, installed the reticulation system when they moved to their 4700-acre property, Kalabity, in the Casterton Ranges, around four years ago.
Their main aim was to improve water security and grazing management on the property which had previously been used to run sheep.
"The bulk of our feed is at the top of the hills, but all the water sources [five dams, two springs and the Glenelg River] are at the bottom of the property," Scott explains.
"That was fine when it was being used for sheep [because they have lower water requirements], but we're purely cattle and it wasn't working.
"The cattle were walking off condition just to get a drink. They were also digging tracks into the hills and causing erosion."
The couple consulted with farm reticulation specialists in Hamilton who designed a system that would be capable of watering 170 DSE.
"We're currently running 17 DSE but it gives us the flexibility to crash graze or cell graze if we want to."
The bulk of the reticulation system took around two months to install and comprises 33 troughs, 21 kilometres of 50mm poly piping and two 170,000-litre header tanks.
Water is pumped from the dams to the header tanks (a head of 50 metres) using mainly Airwell pumps and is then gravity-fed to the troughs.
When one dam is emptied, the tap is switched off and pumping commences from the next dam.
The system also includes a fully automated diesel pump with watchdog settings, with one air compressor on the farm that does 80 per cent of the work.
"I can't say enough about the Airwell pumps. They're absolutely bombproof," Scott says.
There is at least one trough in each of Kalabity's paddocks, which range in size from 40 to 80 hectares.
Scott uses concrete troughs because they do not burn or warp. He also recommends installing large troughs (a minimum of 4,500 litres) for water security.
"One trough holds enough to water 80 head of cattle for one day," he says.
"If anything goes wrong, you know you've got a bit of time up your sleeve to fix the problem or find another source of water."
That said, Scott and Penny have had no major problems with the system other than "the standard leaks here and there".
The major challenge, apart from setting the system up in the first place, has been filling the dams during successive years of below average rainfall.
"The cattle only use two per cent of the water that hits the ground, but it's still a challenge to keep the dams full," Scott says.
"We've got six dams with 220-megalitre capacity, but it seems they've been nearly empty for the best part of the past 10 years!"