I want to start by giving credit to our Farm Manager, Greg Cole, for implementing an excellent grazing management schedule at the farm. This year we were able to graze both our mature cows (95 head) and our retained heifers (48 head) until January 15th without a single bale of hay fed! This was possible due to good forage management, proper stocking density, and a little cooperation from the weather.
Another challenge that we had to overcome was the absence of grazing in a 15 acre pasture known as Field 60. Field 60 is a nice stand of fescue based forage, but it is missing one crucial component, water. Historically, this field has watered cattle from a small pond at the lower end of the field.
In the summer of 2019 we used this field during our summer rotations, and we noticed that when the cattle got to that field, they started looking rough after two days grazing in the good forage. Suspecting it was the pond, we moved them out to a location with good water and the cows immediately started to fill back up and look better. Upon further inspection, the pond which was originally 7-8 foot deep, had silted in over the years and was now barely a foot deep in the middle. This pond was no longer a reliable drinking source for livestock.
I discussed this dilemma with Dr. Higgins and he immediately started to formulate a solution. As you may recall, we have completed numerous water harvesting projects at Eden Shale and this one initially looked to be no different than the others. Located right next to Field 60 was an old tobacco barn (seriously, these things are everywhere). The original plan was to put gutters on the old barn, drain them into plastic above ground tanks and water the cattle using an 8 foot tire waterer.
This proved to be cost prohibitive due to the “wavy” nature of the old barns roof line. We had multiple contractors look at putting gutters on the barn, and all of them said the barn roof would need major repairs before hanging the gutters up. We had received one reasonable quote and we gave that contractor the green light to start the project.
As part of the project, we ordered three 3,000 gallon black plastic water tanks that would serve as our water storage. The plan was to place one 3,000 gallon water tank on each corner of the barn collecting from each gutter. Then a solar powered water pump would pump the water uphill into Field 60 (about 100 feet way) to fill up the third 3,000 water tank, which would then gravity feed into the 8 foot tire water tank as needed.
Long story short, that contractor never showed up to start the work. We reached out to them numerous times to no avail. We called one of the other contractors that had given us a quote. We couldn’t even get them to answer the phone. Now frustrated and sitting on a pile of unused materials, we had grazed the entire 2020 season without use of this 15 acre pasture.
But it turns out this was a blessing in disguise. Because when given enough time Dr. Higgins can come up with some ingenious, non-traditional designs that function very efficiently. And that is exactly what he did. Next month, I will present our newest water harvesting design at Eden Shale Farm. Stay tuned…