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Off-Stream Watering Systems Promote Riparian Health


A push in the environmentally friendly direction

Landowners or land managers that use Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) to protect riparian zones around water bodies can count on better water quality within the water body.

Off-stream watering systems for livestock producers reduces the impact on the riparian areas where the connection to the water is immediate. These areas are highly sensitive to cattle and cropping practices; which makes integrating BMPs into the preservation of those areas a major benefit to water quality.

Although those areas require some natural disturbance interactions to maintain environmental health, they tend to receive too much wear and tear when cattle solely use the connected bodies of water as a drinking source. 

Not only do the cattle pose a threat to the health of the riparian areas, but animals defecating directly into the water channels is a common contamination to the body of water as a whole.

Off-stream watering decreases the chance that those areas get harmed or contaminated by keeping grazing cattle further from the natural water source. Although, when off-stream watering systems are too near a water body with no barriers for the cattle, there is a decrease in effectiveness of the system as riparian protection.

In general, when cattle are introduced to the watering systems, they begin to rely on that as their main source of water and decrease their usage of the riparian areas.

Although drawing cattle away from the riparian areas would be beneficial it is important to remember that those areas need some disturbance in order to remain healthy and balanced.

Allowing controlled and well-managed grazing on those areas, while off-stream watering systems are in use, will help to promote new growth and vegetation to riparian health.

One common deterrent from purchasing the watering systems is the cost as well as the potential time it takes to set up the device.

While the cost of the systems can range anywhere from $1500 to $6000, with a proper kit, it takes very little time to set up and begin use. 

One consideration is the distance restrictions with different varieties of systems due to the need to connect to a water source. The pump needs constant water flowing to it or it can burn out the entire system as soon as the pump is emptied.

While riparian health is a popular reason to integrate off-stream watering into farms, the overall accessibility of the systems and cost to produce can also sway the decision to purchase one or not.

At our Medicine Hat Field Day in 2018, Laciee Shock explained just how simple it is to set up an off-stream watering system.