Using Solar Powered Water Wells for Better Grazing
Producer’s Story: Anna Duhon Stokes
"A rancher may have plenty of grass but without water to go with that forage it may be of no use." – Anna Stokes
Duhon Cattle, L.L.C. is a Cow/Calf operation raising cattle just north of the Intracoastal Canal in Southwest Calcasieu Parish for 30 plus years. J.L. Duhon, his daughter Anna Duhon Stokes and her husband Kaleb Stokes run about 150 head of cows. Their pastures consist of a variety of forages including common Bermuda grass, native grasses, clover, native prairie grasses, rye grass and native grasses on marsh rangeland.
For years Duhon Cattle has struggled through dry spells and a string of low rainfall periods along with residual salt water intrusion from recent hurricanes and tropical storms. During extreme droughts, ponds and canals that are usually a reliable water source dry up or the salinity levels get really high due to the proximity of the Intracoastal Canal. If salinity levels get high enough it can be lethal to livestock. In some cases, there may be enough forage on ranch pastures, but good fresh drinking water is so far away from the grass that the far-off forage won’t be grazed.
Seeking a solution to their water problems, the family contacted the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to discuss options and possible assistance for establishing water for some of their remote pastures. Because some of the pastures are far from any electrical source, they began to consider the possibility of a solar powered system. In 2012 they installed the first solar powered water well system in the state of Louisiana.
They decided to drill a large diameter shallow well and as luck would have it, they hit fresh water at 45 feet. It had a good shallow sand and the fresh water tasted as good as the well water near the ranch headquarters. Based on the number of cattle needing water, pumping depth, and holding tank capacity, a system was designed to meet the ranches livestock watering needs.
The well and water system is located so that three or four different pastures can be watered from one system. Powered by solar panels, the pump lifts water from the well into a storage tank. The water is then piped from the storage tank to the water troughs by gravity feed. Since the initial installment of the watering system, they have upgraded the solar system and have added an additional trough. They also have plans to install future water lines to carry water even further from the initial well site.
The added water system is a huge plus for the cattle operation and having good dependable water in the pastures gives them so much more grazing flexibility. Without dependable water there can’t be a real grazing plan put in place.
A rancher may have plenty of grass but without water to go with that forage it may be of no use.
With feed prices at an all time high, efficient forage management plays an even bigger part in the success of a grazing operation and fresh water is a must!