Pasture water systems

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Farm Forum

Well, the fall season is still amazingly warm, and there are still some cattle out on pasture. Late season livestock water on pastures hasn’t been much of a problem yet as we’ve only had a few mild frosts, but the time is coming where freeze up will be a concern. If you are utilizing natural water supplies like creeks, dams, or dugouts you probably have some time, but if you’ve got pipe and tank systems with valves and floats that can freeze, there may not be too many nice days left before freezing weather.

There are several options when piping water to pasture tanks, and decisions of what type of ‘system’ to use can depend on whether the water source is rural water or sourced from an electric or solar pump at a well, stock dam or dugout. In addition, some producers prefer fixed or buried systems while others prefer to keep their systems adjustable by using above ground pipe.

Above ground pipe has become a very popular option for many producers who want the benefits of delivering clean water to livestock without the expenses associated with burying water lines below the frost line. When used with quick coupling components, these systems offer a great deal of flexibility for both large and small livestock operations.

Generally, above ground pipe systems have a few commonalities. The type of pipe used in these systems is not your general black pipe found at home improvement stores. Flexible above ground pasture pipe is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and is usually rated at 160 psi. This is a very tough material that can withstand being driven over by light vehicles. Some producers even allow water to freeze in these pipes (although this isn’t necessarily recommended). Pipe size can vary depending on application, with 1”, 1 ¼”, 1 ½” and 2” inside diameter pipe being popular in our region.

Above ground systems also offer many components that allow for flexibility, including T’s, elbows, valves, drain ports, and other compression fittings with large threaded collars that are designed to be installed by hand, allowing for quick coupling and decoupling of components. Compression fittings are generally rated at 200 psi.

Rick Smith, owner of PastureWorks in Hayti, SD has worked with many producers to design custom above ground systems, and he cautions that producers and installers should pay special attention to the type of pipe they are purchasing and design their systems accordingly. Smith has found that pipe can either be manufactured to inside diameter tolerances or outside diameter tolerances. Both can work, but it is important to know what type of pipe you have so that the correct couplers are purchased to match the pipe. Pipe that is manufactured based in inside diameter tolerances can have some variations in outside diameter, and thus the correct couplers should be used to avoid difficulty in installation.

In future articles I’ll explore more options for pasture pipe systems, including welded joints and shallow-bury options.