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Watering systems for rotational grazing

Make sure there's clean, fresh water in each paddock

Rotational grazing is raising livestock on a pasture that’s been divided into sections called paddocks. Animals are rotated between the subdivided areas to prevent overgrazing and let the pasture regrow. One of the issues, however, is how to deliver water to each paddock.

Jake Overgaard is an Extension educator at the University of Minnesota. He says the first thing to consider when planning a watering system is where the water will come from.

"The most common source would be the farm’s well. That’s typically going to be your best quality water. Some folks will use streams or ponds as well," says Overgaard. "There’s some risk in doing that, sometimes there’s water quality issues, you could have high nitrates or e-coli issues. We really recommend pulling from a well but there are situations where you might need to look to a stream or a pond-fed system."

It’s important to set up a system that’s flexible, with a watering tank in each paddock.

"Some of them will place a junction point where you can connect and get water to a tank every 100’ along the exterior of the pasture so that it’s easy to grab onto that and get set up," says Overgaard. "Most systems that I’ve seen, they’re using above-ground pipe and just running plastic pipe along the surface of the ground."

In some situations, the pipe will have to be buried, such as if it has to go across a road.

Overgaard says to look to your local Extension office, the Natural Resources Conservation  Service, and even other farmers to help you set up a system that will work for you.

More on how to build a mobile cattle watering system

Why rotational grazing systems are beneficial to animals and pasture

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