Water utilisation needed a rethink as ground cover increased at Kildara

Water utilisation needed a rethink as ground cover increased at Kildara

Sheep
Richard Keniry with some of his Merinos at Kildara, Eurimbla between Wellington and Cumnock.

Richard Keniry with some of his Merinos at Kildara, Eurimbla between Wellington and Cumnock.

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Increasing ground cover resulted in less rainwater runoff, so Richard Keniry set up a new watering system for Kildara, Eurimbla.

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THE supply of quality water is essential to livestock survivability and according to Central Tablelands Local Land Services livestock officer, Brett Littler, sheep will consume from four to six litres per head a day.

Cattle will require from 60 to 100 litres per head a day and in both sheep and cattle cases, intake will increase in hot weather, on saltbush or salty rations, high roughage diets or when lactating.

At Kildara, Eurimbla, between Wellington and Cumnock, Richard Keniry wanted to increase more groundcover for grazing, but needed a good water supply for his stock.

When Mr Keniry returned to the farm in 2012 the aim was to increase ground cover, however, during the years leading up to 2014 he found less run-off to dams from rain events.

"We had primarily relied on dams for stock water, but as we gained more ground cover we saw less water run-off to dams, due obviously to moisture retention," he said.

"So we had to take stock of our whole property stock water system."

Richard and Belinda run the Kildara Pastoral Company with Richard's parents John, and Dianne.

They had two old watering systems which were pumped out of two dams covering approximately 250 hectares including the sheep yards and houses.

Between 2008 and 2011 two bores were put in, but had not been equipped.

By 2015 they began implementing a new whole-of-property strategic watering plan.

By the end they had installed some 25 kilometres of pipe and six poly tanks totalling 200,000 litres and ran gravity-fed lines to other systems from each.

Also some 50 troughs were installed while another 15 were updated, all with concrete bases, and larger paddocks were reduced in size to around 10ha to 20ha.

The result, from about 15 to 20 per cent of the property covered by a stock watering system, some 80pc of the 2100ha arable land was covered.

Up until the drought the Kenirys were grazing upwards to 6000 to 7000 Merino ewes of which about 3500 were joined to Merino rams and the balance of classed-out or older ewes were joined to terminal sires for prime lamb production.

Also 250ha to 300ha was put down each year to grazing cereals with the aim to harvest 100ha of that.

"Numbers are back to 4000 core Merino ewes now with minimal surplus for terminal sire joining," Mr Keniry said.

"However, we plan to breed our way back to our normal numbers," he said.

Mr Littler said Merino sheep drank less than crossbred and British breeds while Bos indicus cattle breeds and their crosses drink less than other breeds.

"When it comes to water trough access sheep need an access of at least 30 centimetres plus one to 1.5cm per head space while cattle access needs at least 30cm per 10 head," he said.

"A three-metre trough could manage 100 head of cattle to drink at the same time.

"Trough height is also important and has caused issues."

Mr Littler said the required flow rate was dependent on a few things but the big one was mob or herd size.

"Generally that is 10 litres per head an hour for cattle and sheep, normally require one to 1.5 litres per second."

However, supply is critical.

"(The) system must be capable of supplying maximum quantity on demand and cool water equals greater heat loss," he said.

"Shaded troughs can be 60 degrees Celsius cooler and has lower evaporation rates, but be aware of dust on troughs as it can reduce intake for sheep and can cause some big problems.

"Also clean regularly when feeding and feed away from the trough."

He said graziers should try to keep a distance to the trough at about 1.5 kilometres.

"More than this will impact grazing and management of pastures. In pastoral areas a guide is 2.5km for sheep and 5km for cattle."

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