Make every drop count: managing water for pastoral operations
The move to sustainable grazing often starts with water. From pasture management to production rates, water plays a crucial role in most livestock operations. Rural products specialist Renee Johnson, from our Julia Creek (Qld) branch, has the following advice for graziers looking to improve their water infrastructure this season.
For a livestock business, evaluation of your water systems often starts with access points.
Access to water can directly impact the grazing pressure within a paddock. Overgrazing can occur in areas where water points are too far apart to encourage stock to feed over a greater distance.
By measuring the maximum span any animal would need to travel to find a water source, you can determine the need to add additional access points. Ideally, the distance from water to palatable forage should not exceed 3 km, however this may vary depending on your land type and available feed.
The importance of water quality
Perhaps the most essential aspect of water management is monitoring water quality. The quality of water can directly impact an animal’s performance, no matter the species. Research has proven that provision of cool, clean water is essential for efficient livestock production and can help increase milk production, decrease stress levels and impact reproduction rates for a range of livestock species.
Regular cleaning of troughs, monitoring of salt, other mineral levels and temperature all play a vital role in maintaining quality water supply for your livestock.
Tracking water use and levels
Tracking daily water usage and volumes of water in storage is an important task for graziers planning for the season ahead. While we cannot make it rain, we can be prepared.
By adjusting stocking rates to suit water availability, supply can be maintained for a longer period. In paddocks where water usage and grazing pressure is high, reducing stock numbers can be a vital step in maintaining a sustainable system.
Tracking water levels can be as simple as measuring tank or dam levels at regular times and recording this data in a spreadsheet. For large scale grazing operations, the use of remote water monitoring systems such as Farmbot, can be a smart investment, saving time and money while ensuring water levels are constantly measured.
If you would like more information or a water infrastructure assessment for your property, contact your local Elders branch.