As a practitioner of cell grazing, Wade Berlier manages 1,000 head of cattle on 90-100 paddocks in southwest Kansas near Lakin. Thus, he needs multiple water points, all with high capacity to handle large herds.
Berlier is one of those inventive spirits who can weld up a silk purse from a cow's ear. His many mechanical innovations across his 28,000-acre ranch prove the point, and the variety of Berlier-designed water points on the ranch confirm his creativity and willingness to implement new designs.
Big round stock tanks, small round tanks, long trough-type tanks, storage and no storage — he has about everything imaginable. But Berlier says the best one he's designed uses a large, earth-sheltered storage tank and three troughs, two of which are shut off in the winter.
“If I build any more water systems on the ranch, that's probably the design I'll use,” he says. “It seems to work the best and has the fewest problems and the lowest exposure and evaporation rate.”
From oilfield to pasture
The basis for this water point is a steel, 22,000-gal., oilfield tank measuring 10 ft. in diameter by 30 ft. long. It's nursed from a submersible pump that produces only about 20 gpm, so the capacity issue for large herd size is solved by huge storage.
The tank lies on its side and is covered on the back and both ends with earthen berms. About 5 ft. of another steel tank is welded onto one end to create a service area for most of the plumbing and valves. Berlier accesses these controls by opening a hatch on top and crawling down a ladder. The float that signals the submersible pump to turn on or off, however, is inside the main tank.
A 30-ft. steel water trough, made from splitting a 16-in. well casing lengthwise, is welded on the tank's front. The float for this tank is also inside the tank service area.
“I've never had this tank freeze, even in the hardest winters,” Berlier says. “That earth-sheltered tank provides a huge thermal mass and seems to be enough to prevent freezing of the water in the trough. I designed it with that in mind.”
The 30-ft. trough on the tank's front has adequately watered up to 1,000 cows in the winter, Berlier says.
An expandable supply
When things heat up and the cattle need more water, Berlier's favorite waterhole can grow enough to still service that many head. He has two other 30-ft. troughs, made of the same split well casing, only a short distance from the storage tank. These two troughs are supplied by 6-in. galvanized pipe that can be turned on and off with a valve inside the tank service compartment.
They are downhill from the main tank and stand above the ground on legs. But, since they're at a height equal to the master water trough, its float control manages the two auxiliary troughs' water level, too.
Berlier designed a unique and very functional plug/drain/overflow for these two extra water troughs. The drain plugs are made of the same 6-in. galvanized pipe supplying water to the troughs. They have a flat flange welded around their circumference, and they drop into a collar around a 6-in. drainpipe, mating up with a flat flange and a rubber seal. The combined weight of the stopper and water holds it down and seals it.
Since the top of the pipe stopper is open and slightly lower than the trough's top, it functions as an overflow. The water goes out the drainpipe and away from the drinking area.
The total available bunk space, when all three tanks are operating, is 150 ft. That's because cattle have access to both sides of the two, 30-ft. troughs, plus one side of the 30-ft. trough on the supply tank.
Alan Newport is a freelance writer based in Carnegie, OK.