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Water Conservation Tips for Livestock Producers

Water conservation can help reduce costs, improve animal health and productivity, and protect the environment for the future.

There are several things that producers can do to conserve water for livestock, starting with keeping livestock out of water sources. Contaminants can easily get into water sources from feces, urine, and pathogens, affecting the quantity and quality of water available. Livestock can also damage the banks and vegetation of water sources leading to erosion and sedimentation. To help prevent these problems, fence off water sources and provide other watering systems, such as troughs, tanks, or pipelines. 

Off-Source Watering Systems Fact Sheet

Capturing and preserving run-off from dugouts is also a great way of collecting excess water for drought supply. A two year drought supply is considered a good rule of thumb.

Dugouts should be sized according to water demand and also take into consideration run-off potential and the area climate. It is suggested dugouts are located in an area that can be filled 8 to 10 times per year, in order to be feasible. Dugouts lose water through evaporation and sometimes seepage, which can be combatted by utilizing covers. This will also help to reduce algal growth. Liners are also an option to help prevent seepage. Monitor dugouts regularly for water problems and update them accordingly.

Quality Farm Dugouts Manual

Producers can prevent water contamination by utilizing best management practices (BMPs) for water sources, helping to protect water quality and quantity. 

Some examples of BMPs for water sources include:

  • installing buffer strips or riparian zones around water sources to filter runoff and prevent erosion
  • maintaining or restoring wetlands to store and purify water
  • using proper storage and disposal methods for manure, chemicals and other potential pollutants
  • testing water regularly for contaminants (inquire about proper treatment methods when necessary)

Rural Water Quality Information Tool

Consider implementing rain water capture to help reduce the demand for ground or surface water, as well as combatting runoff and erosion. Some producers utilize large buildings to capture larger quantities of rain water. 

Spring developments are another good way to conserve water. To ensure that you do not damage or deplete the spring, ensure that spring developments are designed well and constructed properly. Do not overdevelop or over pump a spring as this can reduce the water in the aquifer. Shut off flow to the spring with a float valve when not needed, if possible.

Spring Development Fact Sheet

Flowing wells can provide a convenient and abundant source of water for livestock, producing flowing water above ground elevation without pumping, due to the natural pressure of the aquifer. Although flowing wells can waste large amounts of water if not controlled and affect the availability of water for other users. To help conserve water, a sealed well cap and valve can be installed to control the flow.

A simple, yet effective water conservation method is water reuse, helping to save water, energy, and money. Reusing water can be especially effective for washing that does not require higher quality water, although anyone considering this should follow the appropriate guidelines and regulations to ensure water safety.

Using specific nozzles for different cleaning jobs can also affect the efficiency and effectiveness of cleaning jobs, such as washing livestock, equipment, or facilities, by conserving water, energy, and time, as well as improving hygiene and the quality of cleaning. For example, using a high-pressure nozzle for washing, as opposed to a low-pressure nozzle, can reduce water consumption and cleaning time, the same as using a fan-shaped nozzle for rinsing can cover a larger area and remove more dirt compared to a jet-shaped nozzle. 

Did you know that using cooler water can help with livestock weight gain? Utilizing insulated or shaded water tanks or troughs and underground or buried pipelines to transport water, is a simple way to provide cooler water for livestock. 

Producers should also consider running cooling equipment in barns on a cycle as opposed to full time, such as during the hottest hours of the day or when humidity exceeds a certain threshold. Fans, misters, and sprinklers can help livestock reduce heat stress, improve comfort and performance, and reduce water consumption, but can also consume a lot of energy and increase humidity and risk of disease. Using a cycling method should help to combat this. 

Another simple water conservation tactic is to use float valves to avoid overfilling tanks. Overfilling can easily happen when manually filling containers, while the use of float valves will ensure that the water flow automatically stops when the container is full.

Leaky pipelines are another common source of water loss. Pipelines with cracks, holes, or loose connections, cause water to leak and drip, wasting water, money, and decreasing water pressure and flow rate. Leaks in pipelines can also contribute to soil erosion and damage, water contamination, and flooding. 

Ensure that pipes are monitored regularly for signs of leakage, such as wet spots, puddles, or mould, use a leak detection device to determine the extent of the leak, and repair any faults as soon as possible.

For those areas that experience low precipitation or high evaporation, snow fencing can be especially effective, helping to trap the snow and direct it to flow towards dugouts as it melts. Snow fencing creates a barrier or windbreak which reduces wind speed and causes the snow to drift and pile up.

Finally, one of the most simple methods of water conservation is utilizing pasture pipelines from unused sources. Pasture pipelines can help producers conserve water by using springs, wells, dugouts, and ponds, located away from the pasture, and directing the water to the appropriate area. Shallow underground or buried pipelines also prevent evaporation and keep the water cooler than the surface water alternatives.

Making an effort and implementing small changes in your operation can not only help conserve water for you but will also ensure that future generations can access the resources they need. 


Information in this article was sourced from Agri-News

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