This 4 x 2 x 4 foot portable tank has made Nebraska cattleman Curt Morrow's rotational grazing system more feasible because all he needs to move it everyday is an ATV. The tank's quick recharge features ensures that his cattle have water when they need it.
Nebraska beef producer Curt Morrow designed a rotational grazing system for his 85-head cow/calf herd about 12 years ago with plans to expand his beef operation without having to pay for high land prices or rent.
Over time Morrow moved to a daily rotation through paddocks that vary in size from 20 acres to less than one acre to utilize more of the grass he was producing.
While he's experienced many improvements in his pastures and his cattle, Morrow has struggled to resolve the issue of moving his water source each time he moves cattle. Poly-wire fencing is easily reset to the new paddock. Relocating water tanks each day had proven to be much more challenging.
"When I started using rotational grazing, I had several water tanks," Morrow says. "That way I didn't have to move one tank through all the paddocks. Using multiple tanks helped, but moving big tanks is a headache because they have to be emptied before you move them. Even empty, moving big tanks takes time and manpower."
Large water tanks take up a bigger area in small paddocks and if they sit in one place any length of time, grass kill opens the door for erosion problems. Because Morrow's land is flat, hills didn't complicate his moves, but he couldn't get past the idea that there was a better solution for water sources.
Morrow's tank-moving woes took a turn for the better about 6 years ago when he started testing the prototype for a two-foot high, four-foot long stainless steel tank mounted on skids that could be moved with a four-wheeler. Development of the tank came out of Morrow's discussions with E. J. Habrock from K-Line Irrigation North America about finding a better way to provide water to his livestock with daily moves.
After many years of attending pasture walks across the nation, Habrock recognized that bringing water to remote areas to better utilize grass was a widespread problem. Because every beef producer had a unique setting, solving the water problem require an "out-of-the-box" solution.
Habrock started working on a tank design that would both provide adequate water and be highly mobile. In the process, he included a focus on integrating K-Line's irrigation water lines and connections into the design because of their unique connection qualities.
"We tested several different prototypes for about three years before we settled on a design. I probably spend about 10 minutes now to move both the fence and the tank," Morrow says.
“A short rope attaches to the tank frame and it takes just a couple minutes to tow it. The quick disconnect cam lock makes it easy to disconnect from one water source and hook up to the next one."
Because his water system doesn't have high flow capacity, Morrow initially wondered if the small tank's recharge would be adequate for his herd size.
"My water pipes were put in many years ago and are all small above ground lines," Morrow says. "But the tank works fine. If we have a really hot summer day, I'll keep an eye on the water to make sure the cattle have the water they need. But that's true no matter what kind of water tank you use. I know there are beef producers with 300 head of cattle using this tank."
The flexible tubing that connects the small tank to a water supply helps reduce flow is a bonus for producers like Morrow with low flow capacity. Uncoupling the tank with each move also prevents air lock in water lines.
MAKING BETIER USE OF THE GRASS
"Expensive land rents were the main reason I set up a rotational grazing system," Morrow says. "I've seen both my cattle and my pastures improve once I started making better use of my grass and grazing it in a different way. It's not that labor intensive, especially with this small tank. I won't graze any other way now."
Habrock says Morrow's cooperation with field testing during the tank's development helped K-Line produce a satisfactory tank that was designed to be used in grazing systems where cattle are frequently moved.
"Because the tank has a low center of gravity, cattle aren't likely to rub on it or tip it over," Habrock says. "There are other small tanks on the market, but few of them are designed to be pulled around and none are stainless steel, which makes the tank strong and keeps the water clean. Because it's so small and users move it often, there's no trouble with developing mud holes around the tank, either."
Using a small tank to water more than a few cattle may seem counterintuitive, however Morrow has been pleased with the way his cattle approach the tank.
"To begin with, moving cattle every day causes them to become very docile and calm," Morrow says. "Especially the cattle that I've bred and raised. I can walk right up to them. They're not afraid of me. When they come to the tank, they approach it calmly and in pairs of two or three. I believe part of their behavior is due to the fact that the water is always close to the herd."
In large pastures where a herd of cattle walk across a pasture, headed to a water tank half a mile or more away, they are likely to push and shove each other when they reach the tank. Their behavior comes from a natural competitive instinct for water.
"When the water's so close, it's easier for them to go a few at a time. I never see them pushing or shoving around the tank," Morrow says. "It also prevents development of trails to the water. One other thing I like about the tank is that it's always so clean. The water is always clear and you can see to the bottom of the tank."
Habrock notes that additional flex line available for the tank allows users to place the tank in multiple sites in one paddock, naturally pushing cattle to different areas to graze.
"My land is really flat, so I don't have issues with finding a flat spot for the tank," Morrow says. "But it also works well on hilly ground. The tank is only 4 feet long and the valve is in the middle, so you don't have to worry about having it on level ground."
Beef producers who would like to graze more intensely without installing large numbers of hydrants and water pipes may find the tank useful. For grazing fields where crops are raised in summer, the tank provides water without putting hydrants or water tanks across the field.
"Before you purchase the tank, make sure your existing well and pipeline has the pressure and flow capacity to handle the length of the new tubing," Habrock says. "Elevation changes in the pasture or field will have to be investigated before a tubing size is to be selected. K-Line offers several sizes of tubing from 1 ¼” to 2" that can used to reduce friction losses in case of a lack of pressure at a hydrant location or at the well. Portable air vents may also need to be installed to prevent a vacuum in the tubing."
Morrow, who has found the tank to be highly durable and reliable, expects his tank to outlive his need for it.
"I wouldn't be surprised if, at my estate sale, someone buys this tank and uses it for the lifetime of their beef operation," Morrow says. "The framework is very durable, but if something did happen to it, welding would repair it.
Reprinted from Working Ranch March 2017