Portable Watering System for Sustainable Management of Integrated Livestock Systems

This project will showcase the adoption of portable water systems on grazed lands for improved productivity of pasture land and minimization of environmental degradation from nutrient and pathogen buildup around stationary waterers on grazed lands. The project specifically addresses the goals of the Greencover program to promote BMPs for:
a)    reduced confinement strategies of cattle to prevent nutrient and pathogen accumulation around stationary waterers
b)    use of portable watering systems for mobile feeding concepts/ideas
c)    provide basis for future determination of economic value of portable watering systems to improve the distribution of tame forage productivity on grazed land
d)    enhanced delivery mechanisms for technology transfer through a producer field day and internet website update to the La Broquerie Project web page

In September 2003, a research and extension site was established in the RM of LaBroquerie in Southeast Manitoba (SE20-5-8E).  Soil at the site is Class 3M which is marginal for annual crop production.  The subclass M designation is associated with low soil moisture which is a consequence of rapid drainage of coarse-textured soil (confirmed by a site visit by Peter Haluschak, Head Provincial Soil Survey, MAFRI).

In the late summer of 2003, an electromagnetic soil survey of the site was conducted by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. A Geonics EM31 electromagnetic ground conductivity meter was used to determine apparent ground conductivity in millisiemens per metre (mS m-1).  PFRA concluded that the western section of the site was underlain by a thick layer of clay with a overburden of coarse till material. The eastern half was coarse, till material throughout the soil profile. As a result of the survey, two replicate plots were established: Replicate 1 on the western half underlain by clay and Replicate 2 on the eastern half which did not possess an underlying clay layer.  The results have been repeatedly ground-truthed based on observation of soil profiles during installation of monitoring wells in the fall 2003 and the summer 2007, and soil sampling in the fall of each year since 2003.

The soil series present at the site include 70% Berlo loamy fine sand (imperfectly drained lacustrine) and 30% Kergwenan loamy sand to gravel (imperfectly drained outwash). The coarse texture of the soil makes it prone to leaching of mobile nutrients such as nitrate.

The experimental design of the project site is a 2 x 3 factorial with the following treatments:
1) Control-graze: 20-acre paddock that was grazed with no manure application
2) Control-hay: 3-acre paddock that was harvested as hay with no manure    application
3) Full-graze – 10-acre paddock that was grazed and received a spring application of manure (application dates for each year provided below)
4) Full-hayed – 3-acre paddock that was harvested as hay and received a spring application of manure (application dates for each year provided below)
5) Split-grazed – 10-acre paddock that was grazed and received a spring and fall application of manure (application dates for each year provided below)
6) Split-hayed – 3-acre paddock that was harvested as hay and received a spring and fall application of manure (application dates for each year provided below)

In the spring of 2004, MAFRI and University staff installed pressure water lines to one stationary waterer in each grazed paddock. Within one year, the area around the waterers and mineral supplement tubs became unvegetated from animal traffic, hereafter referred to as bare earth areas (BEA). In 2006, an undergraduate project undertaken by Ms. Siobhan Stewart determined a gradient of soil nutrients with proximity to waterers within the soil surface zone (0-2”). Zones grading from BEA to mixed BEA (bare areas and isolated forage tuffs) and grassed areas (Transition zone), to grassed fringed areas around BEA were analyzed for ammonium, nitrate and Olsen-P levels. She found levels of nitrate increased from about 2 mg N kg-1 for the grassed areas to 15 to 20 mg N kg-1 near waterers and mineral supplements in BEA. Even more dramatic was the increase in Olsen-P levels towards waterers and mineral supplements in BEA. The Control paddocks increased from 11 mg P kg-1 to 81 from grassed to BEA. The gradation in P levels was even greater for manured paddocks with levels increasing from 51 to 191 and 62 to 231 mg P kg-1 for the Split and Full treatments, respectively.

Recently, a PhD student, Mr. Luca Coppi, found elevated levels of nitrate, 23.5 and 24.4 mg N L-1 in groundwater samples in water wells positioned in the middle of two BEA. Deep soil sampling below the rooting zone (3-4’) obtained 6 mg NO3–N kg-1 soil. At a moisture content of 10% (g H2O g-1 dry soil), soil pore water nitrate content was estimated to be 60 mg N L-1, well exceeding drinking water standard of 10 mg N L-1.

Thus we have evidence to support BEA as locations within grazed paddocks of concentrated accumulation of nutrients in which mobile nutrients such as nitrate are moving to the ground water. This Greencover project provides the infrastructure and support to abandon the use of stationary waterers and move to portable water systems to limit the buildup of nutrients in concentrated areas in grazed paddocks. The project also provides the opportunity through installation of portable water systems to allow seeking further funding to examine rates of reclamation of BEA areas and the impact of moving waterers on distribution of animal dung and urine on improved whole pasture forage productivity. The project also allows communicating the benefit of portable watering systems to producers through a field day and update to the La Broquerie Project website.

Project Objective:
We propose to extend the existing pressurized water piping system at the La Broquerie project site to implement portable water systems in each of the six grazed paddocks. The piping system will be extended from the alley way partitioning replicate 1 and 2 of the site and run the width in one east-west fence line direction of each of the grazed paddocks. Four extension lines distributed evening along each paddock will be trenched 25 feet from the fence line to provide for relocation of waterers during the grazing season. At three week intervals, waterers will be relocated. Soil and dung analysis will be conducted before and after moving of waterers. Cattle numbers per paddock will also be monitored to determine effect of animal grazing days on translocation of nutrients to around waterers.

The ultimate objective of the project is to show producers portable waterers are a practical means to prevent nutrient buildup around waterers. Future studies will demonstrate the benefit of portable waterers to the redistribution of animal dung and urine on pasture productivity and reclamation of BEA.

Project Contact: Dr. Mario Tenuta, Project Co-ordinator
Canada Research Chair in Applied Soil Ecology
Department of Soil Science
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2
Ph: 204-474-7827
Fax: 204-474-7642
Email: tenutam@cc.umanitoba.ca
Start Date: April 2008
Completion Date:
Funding Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Greencover Canada Program Technical Assistance Component, University of Manitoba, MFC.
Project Results: Project is ongoing.