Water Systems Calculator

Fecal contamination of water from cattle with direct access reduces the palatability and consumption of the water. Access to clean pumped water can improve herd health, increase weight gain and increase backfat.

Cow-calf: Research by Lardner et al. (2005) reported that suckling calves whose dams drank from water troughs gained on average 0.09 lbs per day more than calves whose dams had direct access to the dugout. Calves with access to clean pumped water were on average 18 lbs heavier at weaning time. Water and forage intake are closely related so as cows drink more water, they spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves. *

Yearling Grassers: Lardner also found that yearling steers had 8-9% higher weight gain when they had access to water that had been coagulated or aerated before it was pumped compared to steers that only had direct access to dugout water. Steers with access to untreated pumped dugout water gained 3% more weight than steers with direct dugout access. Based on results of Lardner et al. (2005), the below water system calculator was developed to estimate the potential economic benefits and costs of alternative watering systems compared to direct access to dugout water.

More details, calculator assumptions, scenario examples and references are available in the Canfax Research Services fact sheet: Economics of Water Systems (March 2018)

Producer Information - Cow-Calf

Enter values into the yellow boxes.

      
      
$ / lb

Potential Additional Weight Gain - Pumped Water vs. Direct Access

While there are many potential herd health and environmental benefits from utilizing a watering system, the main economic benefit is the potential increase in weight gain.

The following is based on research by Lardner et al. (2005), which analyzed the results of pumped water versus direct access over two periods, early summer (Period 1) and late summer (Period 2).

Lardner’s research found that pumping water without treating it (via aeration or coagulation) appeared to be the most effective option for cows and calves.


(May 23-Jul 31)

(Aug 1-Sept 30)
 
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
 
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
 
(lb/day/calf)
(lb/day/calf)
(lb/day/calf)
$
/ head

$
/ head
$
/ head


Estimated Initial Costs of Watering Systems

Wind-powered pumping system - Windmills use a propeller to convert energy in the wind to power a pump. They can also be used to aerate dugouts and ponds. High variability in wind speeds increases the need for storage capacity. The number of windmills needed is calculated based on each windmill’s pumping capacity and the herd size.

Solar-powered pumping system - Solar panels containing photovoltaic cells convert sunshine into electrical energy to power water pumps. This kind of watering system is reliable and can provide large volumes of water, which is suitable for cows because they tend to come all at once to a water source.

Underground pipeline - Pipelines are buried to a shallow depth to supply water to the livestock away from the surface source. The water supply can come from either a pump or a gravity flow reservoir placed at an appropriated level to get decent flow. A pipeline system is particularly advantageous for producers who split their herds into multiple paddocks, but is less desirable for remote locations, and pipes must be drained in the autumn to avoid freezing. The length of underground pipe is assumed at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in this decision-making tool.

Storage - A water storage tank is normally an essential element in an economically viable water pump system. A tank can be used to store enough water during peak energy production to meet water needs in the event of cloudy weather or maintenance issues with the power system. It also provides the necessary water to livestock between pumping cycles.

* Please note all three options below are using untreated water.

/ year

/ year

/ year



Cow - Calf Results

  Benefit
(per pair per year)
Estimated Initial Cost
(per pair)
Maintenance Cost
(per pair per year)
Number of Years to Pay off Initial Cost
(excluding Maintenance)
Net Benefits in 5 Years
(per pair)
Net Benefits in 7 Years
(per pair)
Windmill Pump
years
Solar-powered Pump
years
Underground Pipe
years


Water System Cost/Benefit for Cow - Calf Herd


Number of Years to Pay Off Initial Cost




Net Benefit in 5 Years




Net Benefit in 7 Years


Producer Information - Yearling Grassers

Enter values into the yellow boxes.

      
      

Potential Additional Weight Gain - Water Treatments vs. Direct Access

While there are many potential herd health and environmental benefits from utilizing a watering system, the main economic benefit is the potential increase in weight gain.

The following is based on research by Lardner et al. (2005), which analyzed the results of pumped water versus direct access over two periods, early summer (Period 1) and late summer (Period 2).

Lardner’s research found that both aerated and untreated pumped water affect yearling steer performance compared to direct access to dugout.

Time Period Period 1 (May 23-Jul 31) Period 2 (Aug 1-Sept 30) Whole Period
 
Untreated Pumped
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(per head)
(per head)
(per head)
Pumped and Aerated


(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
(lb/day/head)
/ head
/ head
/ head

Estimated Initial Costs of Watering Systems

Wind-powered pumping system - Windmills use a propeller to convert energy in the wind to power a pump. They can also be used to aerate dugouts and ponds. High variability in wind speeds increases the need for storage capacity. The number of windmills needed is calculated based on each windmill’s pumping capacity and the herd size.

Solar-powered pumping system - Solar panels containing photovoltaic cells convert sunshine into electrical energy to power water pumps. This kind of watering system is reliable and can provide large volumes of water, which is suitable for cows because they tend to come all at once to a water source.

Solar-powered Aeration System - The system uses a solar-powered compressor and diffusion system; cattle can continue to have direct access or the water can be pumped into a trough. Dugout aeration maintains dissolved oxygen levels, allowing plants and algae to decay under aerobic conditions. As such, aeration prevents the black, smelly water that develops when there is no dissolved oxygen in the dugout water.

Underground pipeline - Pipelines are buried to a shallow depth to supply water to the livestock away from the surface source. The water supply can come from either a pump or a gravity flow reservoir placed at an appropriated level to get decent flow. A pipeline system is particularly advantageous for producers who split their herds into multiple paddocks, but is less desirable for remote locations, and pipes must be drained in the autumn to avoid freezing. The length of underground pipe is assumed at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in this decision-making tool.

Storage - A water storage tank is normally an essential element in an economically viable water pump system. A tank can be used to store enough water during peak energy production to meet water needs in the event of cloudy weather or maintenance issues with the power system. It also provides the necessary water to livestock between pumping cycles.


/ year

/ year

/ year

/ year

/ year



Yearling Steers Results

  Benefit (per head per year) Estimated Initial Cost (per head) Maintenance Cost (per head per year) Number of Years to Pay off Initial Cost (excl. Maintenance) Net Benefits in 5 Year Net Benefits in 7 Year
Untreated Windmill Pump
years
Untreated Solar-powered Pump
years
Untreated Underground Pipe
years
Aeration Treatment on Windmill Pump
years
Aeration Treatment on Solar-powered Pump
years


Water System Cost/Benefit for Yearling Herd



Number of Years to Pay Off Initial Cost





Net Benefit in 5 Years




Net Benefit in 7 Years





More details, calculator assumptions, scenario examples and references are available in the Canfax Research Services fact sheet: Economics of Water Systems (March 2018)

* It is important to note that while a numerical difference was observed in this trial these results were not found to be significantly significant.

Click here to download the Excel Version of this Calculator

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