Portable Water Systems Enhance Rotational Grazing

These water systems can help make rotational grazing more practical for horse owners because they are an inexpensive way to bring water to any paddock.
Placing frequent water hook-ups around your paddocks will provide more options for water source placement. | iStock

Horse owners use rotational grazing to improve pastures and make the most of limited resources. When used correctly, rotational grazing results in healthy, thick stands of forage, increased feed for horses, and productive pastures that need less frequent renovation. It is a good way to maximize productivity.

Portable electric fencing is the simplest and cheapest way to divide pastures because you can move and change it to fit any purpose. Supplying water to all the pasture divisions can be a challenge, however. In some situations it is most logical to install permanent watering systems, but in other circumstances and conditions it is more practical to use portable watering tanks for seasonal grazing. Portable systems can improve the flexibility of grazing systems, and portable tanks can be inexpensive ways to get water to all paddocks. A simple over-the-ground system can often work during summer when it’s not vulnerable to freezing.

Ian Gerrish, at Cobb Creek Farm, in Hillsboro, Texas, says some property owners need to move water tanks from one paddock to another. “In these situations you might use something like HDPE (high-density polyethylene) roll pipe,” he says.

You can roll these pipes up on a reel and then unroll them somewhere else. Some of these big reels can be obtained inexpensively. “Cable companies may have leftover spindle reels,” says Gerrish. “Those are what I use to roll up my pipe. You can roll it over the top of the pipe and gather it that way, but I made some plates on the bale unroller on my tractor. I just hook that into it and pick it up with the tractor to move it around,” saving significant time and effort.

“There are several different types of fittings you can use if you have to roll it back up,” continues. “FloPlast makes some good fittings that you can just tighten with a wrench, or you can use barbed fittings with hose clamps. When you put on hose clamps, always use two, and go opposite ways with them, and the fitting won’t come loose.

“With the aboveground line, if you live in an area that gets hot in summer, make sure the water doesn’t get too hot,” he adds. If a black roll pipe is lying in the sun, it will get even hotter than the ambient temperature, which will heat the water.

“My favorite things to use are simple Rubbermaid tanks and Apex extra-flow valves that go through the tank,” Gerrish says. “These are ¾-inch valves that have a very good range and will accommodate anywhere from 4 to 175 pounds of pressure. These are worry-free and provide lots of flow if you have it. One called a long-tail valve can go right through the side of a Rubbermaid tank.”

These tanks are very durable. “I’ve had very good luck with them, whereas some of the cheaper imitations may wilt in the sunshine or collapse after a while,” he says. You want one that will withstand heat and cold weather and not break.

“You also want to size your tank to the number of animals that will be using it,” he explains. “I use the 300- and the 150-gallon tanks a lot. Even a 300 gallon tank is light enough that one person can pick it up and put it on the back of an ATV when it’s empty.”

Water sources vary, depending on whether you are on a municipal water system, pumping water, using gravity flow, or hauling water. Some people use portable tanks on a permanent system. “I have a fence and water company and put in a lot of rotational systems for people,” says Gerrish. “We often use a PVC or HDPE pipe and run the pipes along an existing fence line where we can set the risers out of the way of the animals, and then use a quick-coupler valve or a hydrant. That way you can cut into the line wherever you need to on that system and move your portable tank to each new location.”

He likes plenty of hookups—the closer the better. “Most of mine are now set 200 feet apart. This gives a lot of flexibility for where we put the tanks. Just make sure those valves are protected so the animals don’t walk on them or rub on them; they will break off if you don’t protect them.”

Gerrish also tries to put the water tanks on high spots in the pasture. “You don’t want your tank in a low area where it makes a muddy mess if it runs over or where the animals will tromp out the grass around it.”






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