Water is money. On our farm without water we have nothing. We recently leased a farm that has 760 acres of grass. It has one small pond on it, all the way on the southern edge. From the pond to the north boundary is 1.4 miles. When we put cattle on this farm, we can rotate them effectively through the southern half closest to the water. We find it very difficult, even using temporary wires to create lanes, to get them to have any kind of impact on the north side. In order to fix this, we have limited options. There are no springs and the pond is too small to pump water out of. Our only option is to drill a well and put in a pressurized system. I got an estimate from a drilling company for a well, $11,000. An additional cost for water troughs, 3.5 miles of 1½ waterline and fittings to carry water to each part of this farm cost another $16,500. Add another $3,000 for equipment rental, fuel, and labor. These expenses quickly add up and become hard to justify on leased land. If landowners are willing to help pay for some of this, it makes it easier to justify. These costs could be negotiated in the cost of the lease.
Adding sheep to our farm last year has really allowed us to utilize areas that cattle do not. Sheep also require far less water. In fact, during the winter sheep do not need access to water. They get enough water from the moisture on the ground. Knowing this, we can bring the sheep to this newly leased farm with limited water. They will fully utilize it in the winter. In the summer months sheep require water, but not like cattle. In the summer a cow and her calf will drink up to 30 gallons of water every day while a ewe and her lambs will only drink one gallon. Hauling water to cattle is not an option for us, it would take far too much water. Hauling water to sheep is much more manageable.
I recently found an old sprayer wagon with a 500-gallon water tank. I talked to the owner and was able to work out a deal, I cleared and patched an old section of fence for him in exchange for the water tank. A great deal for me. I took off the sprayer arms and manifold and put on some new fittings, attached a rubber garden hose to a quick coupler, and ran it to a 25-gallon plastic trough. I covered the tank with a tarp to keep the water cool, and to protect it from UV rays. For under $100 I now have a mobile water system for our sheep. This summer it provided water to our 248 sheep and we needed to fill it every ten days.
Eventually we hope to install the permanent water system described above. For now, the sheep and a mobile water system allow us to utilize this farm without spending much money.