March 18, 2015

Water, alternative forage, and wheat options topics of OSCD annual producers meeting

By Annette Tait
One element of North Dakota’s ever-changing weather, water, was on the minds of producers attending the Oliver Soil Conservation District’s recent annual producers meeting. Oliver County producer Jim Kusler talked about how he had addressed remote watering challenges and National Resource Conservation Service Bowman Office Soil Conservation Technician Fred Nass offered insight into options for remote watering systems, with Morton County producer Jim Hopfauf providing insight into the relationship between clean water and weigh gain in calves.
Kusler’s motivation for remote watering was the 2008 drought. With the exception of 65 cow-calf pairs kept in a pasture with water, his livestock --bulls, replacement heifers, horses and llamas -- didn’t have water. Even a dam Kusler’s parents constructed in the 1930s had gone dry, as did another dam constructed in 1970 on a spring.
“I couldn’t believe I had waterholes everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” Kusler said.
He discussed several of his experiences installing emergency wells on his property, the first using electric pump due to close proximity to a power line. His second well, several years later, was not under a power line and would cost $12,000 to bring in rural electricity to run it.
This led Kusler to consider other options. His next well was solar powered, a system that requires a minimum of three days’ storage capacity to allow for overcast days and maintenance. Nass noted that storage may even be needed for a system with rural water, as some rural water may restrict flows to a level that isn’t sufficient to water a herd in a timely fashion. Extra storage allows a system to fill itself while the cows graze, so as to be ready for a drinking rush.
In addition to electricity and solar power, Kusler has also used wind power, for a deeper well drilled in 2014. In all of Kusler’s installations, he shared the costs and his cost-share through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

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