Farm Pond Management
(Page 3 of 5)
This becomes important, he says, because without ponds in the middle of the summer, some ranchers would be without water for their livestock.
Retrofitting a water delivery system
“We’ve known about the advantage of piping for years, about 20 to 30 years,” George says, “but farmers and ranchers haven’t put a lot of effort into it except within the last five to 10 years.” That means there are a lot of ponds out there that were constructed without a water delivery system; George recommends piping through the middle of the dam or bank.
The first step is to knock the freeboard off the top of the pond’s dam, so that you can get an excavator, such as a backhoe, right to the water’s edge. Freeboard is the distance from the water level to the top of the dam.
Once you have the excavator in place – at water’s edge – dig a trench in the submerged face of the dam about 3 feet deep and away from the dam as far as is needed to lead directly into open water. Back the excavator up, leaving a 1½-to-2-foot barrier to hold the water back, and start digging a trench toward where the stock tank is located. Three to 5 feet down should be sufficient. Lay the pipe in the trench with an open/close valve on the stock tank end and make an “L” joint where your barrier is, which you will later lay down into the pond. The top portion of the “L” should extend into the air about 10 to 15 feet to provide plenty of distance from the bank when laid down. (See illustration of retrofitting pond for pond water delivery.)
The next step is critical – sealing the bank over the pipe. George likes to use an antiseep collar around the pipe to prevent water from creeping along the pipe from the pond through the dam. He also likes to use bentonite clay around the pipe in the trench, since this clay, when it gets wet, swells 15 to 18 times its dry size. You don’t need to use bentonite entirely. A 10-foot section of the clay packed around the pipe will do. A little care and effort here will minimize the chance of a leak later on.
At this point, you should also attach a flat plate on the pond end of the pipe (now sticking up in the air) and drill some holes for water to pass through. This will prevent fish and other critters from ever getting stuck or ending up in the drinking water of your livestock.
“After (the bank) is secure,” George says. “Then and only then do you go to the front and remove that barrier. Lower the intake of your pipe out into the pond, and if the valve is open, water will pass through. I like to have the valve open, so there are no air bubbles in the pipe.”
Lastly, wire the pipe end extending into the pond to a post, to prevent sagging and prevent the pipe end from ever resting directly on the bottom of the pond.
One pipe-free option
Piping is the most desirable method for using a pond for watering livestock. However, if you must permit direct access, you can fence off most of the pond, and only allow animals to access a small portion of it for drinking. If you do this, make sure the area of access is small, so that the livestock can’t wade into the pond and harm the water quality or themselves. For best results, install a layer of crushed rock on the access to prevent muddying and to help control erosion. Either way, if you prevent animals from having direct access to the pond, both will be healthier.
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