How to Set up a Pasture Pipeline Watering System

About Project

Pasture pipeline systems are one of the most efficient, reliable and cost effective ways to deliver water to grazing livestock.  If you have access to well water or clean surface water such as a pond or dugout, you can set up a simple system of pasture pipeline to pump water to paddocks as far away as 2 to 3 miles without a problem.  This offers several key advantages compared to other water systems, including lower maintenance and time spent filling water troughs.  Also, by having the pipeline buried in the ground you can avoid the risk and hassles of water lines getting damaged by equipment, livestock, weather and UV from the sun.

This workshop will take you through the key steps to setting up a simple pasture pipeline system, including some pretty neat “inventions” from some of the top grazers here in Alberta.


Materials and Tools


Step 1 – Calculate Water Requirements

If you’re not sure how much water your animals are going to need, this guide from Ropin the Web shows how to calculate the gallons per day your herd will need, and how to calculate the necessary flow rate for your pipeline system.


Step 2 – Plow Water Lines from Source to Troughs

These water plow systems can typically hold a spool of up to 1,000 ft of 1″ PVC pipe, and it’s a super fast way to get it in the ground.  How deep should you set the plow?  We’ve heard recommendations between 12″ and 18″ max.  Burying your pipe deeper makes it safer from a disc plow or other equipment that could accidentally damage the pipe in the future, but shallower depth allows the pipe to thaw faster in the spring.  For climates similar to Alberta, aim for a 12″ depth.

Rather than building your own water plow, there’s a good chance that someone in your area already has one.  For anyone in Alberta, contact Alberta Agriculture to ask about borrowing their plow at a very low cost.


Step 3 – Set Up Portable Water Troughs

Christoph Weder from Spirit River Ranch near Rycroft, Alberta demonstrates his innovative, home made portable trough system.  By using some old fuel tanks and other cheap building materials he was able to construct a durable water tank that can be dragged to new locations whenever necessary.


Further Resources

Water trough designs 

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Ropin The Web’s “Pasture Pipeline Design” guide includes some really useful information for calculating the peak water usage for yearlings and cow/calf pairs, the required water pressure for various pipe sizes and distances, and some other important design points as well.




How to Set up a Gravity Feed Watering System

About Project

I think every grazer would agree that the ideal watering system is the one that requires the least amount of maintenance, and has the least number of things that can fail.  We came across this innovative setup at Chistoph Weder’s Spirit River Ranch near Rycroft, Alberta.  Christoph and Erika took advantage of a centrally located dugout and a nearby hill to create an elevated reservoir that gravity feeds down to a tractor tire watering trough.


Materials and Tools


Step 1 – Set up an elevated reservoir 

If your pasture has a dugout, you can create a reservoir on top of the existing berm by setting up a large tank on a stand, or by digging a small reservoir right into the berm itself if its elevation is high enough.  If there’s no dugout you can still use a gravity feed system by building a reservoir on top of an existing hill or high point in your pasture.


Step 2 – Fill the reservoir

If you have a dugout close enough, use a gas powered pump to fill up your reservoir.  If you’re setting up a reservoir for a gravity system but don’t have a well or dugout for a water source, you can always bring in a water truck to fill up the reservoir a few times each year.


Step 3 – Syphon into the Watering Trough

To start syphoning water from the reservoir into the watering trough, use the same gas powered pump you used to fill the reservoir to push water into the pipe to get the syphon started.  Once it’s flowing you won’t need the pump and it can slowly flow from the reservoir down to the watering site.  A cheap and simple float valve shutoff system should be installed at the watering trough to automatically stop filling the trough once it’s full, and automatically start syphoning again when the water level gets low.


Further Resources

Christoph Weder’s Portable Water Trough System

Water trough designs