Pasture Irrigation; Using the Right Tool
Irrigating Grass with a Center Pivot is like Planting Wheat with a Corn Planter! You're using the wrong tool for the job. The right tool is K-Line Irrigation. Why? There are five major areas where K-Line Irrigation is superior for irrigating grass.
- Compatibility with Grazing Systems
- Compatibility with Grass
- Livestock Performance
Compatibility with Grazing systems is probably the best reason to use K-Line to irrigate grass. Fencing a pivot-irrigated field for intensively-managed grazing is problematic to say the least. Huge stooped-out areas due to bad paddock layouts, high tensile wires tangled up in the pivot, watering over cattle or reversing to avoid watering over cattle are among the nuisances pivots create.
With flexible posts you can lay fences out as you like, but the posts are expensive and they are one more thing that can go wrong. K-Line on the other hand fits grazing paddocks like a glove. A single K-line typically irrigates an area 250 to 300 feet wide, a handy distance to make a temporary fence with poly wire and step-in posts. A single wire of high tensile fence on both sides and you're set to graze cattle, or if you prefer wider paddocks, fence in two lines 500 to 600 feet wide. Either way K-Line fits neatly in your paddocks.
Compatibility with Grass is another great feature of K-Line Irrigation systems. Grass benefits from deep watering which leads directly to deeper roots. The sprinkler packages range from .09 of an inch to .17 of an inch per hour. With this type of application it mimics a soft gentle rain, no run off on hilly ground and no pooling of water on level ground. Try this with a pivot and the tracks will be horrendous. The outside spans of a pivot apply water very fast. They have to, to get around a whole circle in a few days. Application rates are extremely high at the end towers leading to run-off and soil compaction.
Livestock Performance can be greatly enhanced with K-Line irrigation systems. It's well documented that cattle gain better and give more milk when their forage is not too lush. For a pivot operator this is something he can’t do anything about, No matter the fencing scheme you are randomly watering paddocks with no regard for the growth stage or grazing patterns. A K-Line system gives you complete control because each line of K-Line has its own area to irrigate and it allows you to manage each area individually. As you graze across your field you can dry out certain paddocks you are about to graze by shutting off individual lines. This allows the forages to dry out just a bit so they aren't quite as lush. This also gives you the added benefit of concentrating precious water resources behind the herd as they are grazing, where it is most needed. You shouldn't have to ever graze an area that is still wet so compaction isn't as big of an issue.
The Flexibility of K-Line is multifaceted. Reliability is another K-Line strong suit. There is little to go wrong and with a little preparation, an operator should never have to leave the field not irrigated. At a time when water conservation is a key issue, K-Line lets you incorporate the amount of land you are irrigating and the rainfall you are or aren't receiving. In a dry year you might want to concentrate all your irrigation water in your best paddocks to get through the summer months. In a wet year you can spread your water across a larger area helping the grass bridge short dry spells and maximizing production. If you have trees for shade, or a wind break, you can design a K-Line system to work around them. They don't have to be removed to lose the advantages they were meant to be used for.
Reliability is another K-Line strong suit. There is little to go wrong and with a little preparation, an operator should never have to leave the field not irrigated. Simply put, if the pump is running you’re irrigating. Yes, there are built in labor costs to move the K-Line but you can plan that labor on a daily basis. If it takes you an hour to move your K-Line every day, you plan on it. Most people still have to check their pivots a couple times a day. If it is not working you need to figure out why and fix it, or call someone. This takes unexpected time away from what you normally would be doing. What's worse, if something is broke that you can't fix yourself, you have to wait for a serviceman to come, and his labor isn't very cheap.
Credits to unknown author.