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In parts of Australia, we're already experiencing the start of the long, hot days of summer. In the southern half of the country, summer can mean long periods without rain. This season, paying attention to water management on your small farm becomes critical.
Setting up correctly from the start and planning for your small farm water needs is key to good water management. We live, for the most part, in a very dry country. It's easy to underestimate the water requirements of livestock and horticulture on your small farm if you are unprepared. Get familiar with the basics of water requirements as soon as you can.
Finding out that you are running out of water in summer can be a nasty surprise. You can either put into place a regular schedule of manually monitoring your water, or automate the process. Wireless water monitors and pump controllers in your tanks can help alert you and keep you updated on your water levels. Read more about wireless water monitoring.
We get thirstier in the summer heat and so do our livestock and pets. Animals need a constant supply of fresh, potable water. As a livestock owner, you're responsible for ensuring you are supplying an adequate amount. The daily quantity of water needed varies according to animal breed, size, level of activity and other factors. For example, nursing, working and mature animals will need higher quantities of water. In extreme heat, sheep and cattle can require up to 80% more water than normal. Consult a livestock water chart for a guide to how much water you should be allowing for your stock in summer.
The amount of water needed for each animal is also influenced by climate factors, environmental conditions and the type of feed being consumed. Like most humans, animals prefer to drink cool rather than warm water, so keep water sources shaded as much as possible. For many small landholders a system of troughs or portable water containers will provide a reliable watering system for your stock.
Water for livestock can come from sources including:
This is a pure and good source of water when collected properly, but you may be restricted by capacity or local climate from relying on rainwater for your stock's water supply.
Scheme water is treated 'mains' water. This quality water supply can be used for all purposes but can be costly to use in high quantities, particularly if you need to cart it into your property.
Natural bodies of surface water such as creeks, streams and rivers may be available on your property. Landowners have the right to use water flowing across their property for domestic and stock purposes and to water up to two hectares of garden. Keep in mind that allowing stock direct access to natural watercourses may cause considerable damage to the surrounding environment and water quality. Larger properties may find it worthwhile to construct a dam to capture natural water sources to supply the farm's water needs. Soils containing clay are the most suitable for constructing dams.
Groundwater can be accessed using bores and underground springs. The quality and quantity of available groundwater varies from site to site. Access also depends on the regulations in place for your area.
Windmills are an age-old, but still highly relevant, method of pumping water around your farm. Like all essential pieces of farm equipment, they need to be maintained.
One of the key areas where things can go wrong with your windmill is with the buckets. Our article on Windmill maintenance will help you identify and fix some common maintenance problems with your windmill.
Water quality can affect plant growth, livestock health, soil quality, farm equipment and domestic use. It can be affected by weather and other external factors. For example, evaporation increases the concentrations of salts, while heavy rainfall reduces salts but may increase manure or fertiliser runoff and sediment in dams and surface water.
Keeping troughs, dams and bores clean is an essential step in maintaining good water quality. Water can be contaminated by dirt, feed and fecal matter which can lead to foul smelling and tasting water. Livestock troughs should be cleaned regularly, with items such as brushes and brooms to stop build up of algae and other debris. Bore flow can be maintained with additives - this is particularly important if you are in an area prone to iron and oxide build up. Bores should be checked at regular intervals, for example every 90 days.
To minimise water quality issues on your small farm, monitoring and testing should be done regularly, especially in summer or dry periods. Electrical Conductivity (EC) meters are a relatively inexpensive way of measuring total dissolved solids, or salinity levels. pH strips can be used to test acidity and alkalinity of water the ideal pH for both plants and animals is around 7. More sophisticated water tests including mineral analysis can be done for you at commercial testing laboratories.
Water is the essence of life, and the essence of your small farm's viability. Don't let your livestock or land suffer this summer stay on top of your water management needs.
Our full range of water requirements can help available to be delivered to your door right around Australia.
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