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Should I Irrigate My Pastures?

By   /  June 16, 2014  /  1 Comment

Water can make more forage, but what’s the cost? Here are some tips to help you decide if you want to irrigate so that you can prep for this summer’s heat.

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Click to download this useful resource. This article is an excerpt from the Grazing Lands Conservati
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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. It is quickly obvious when they talk about water use, even without looking at the list, that the authors are from humid regions.

    In the western and Southern Great Plains, potential water use by native short-grasses may use 0.25 to 0.3 inches/day in late spring. In the heat of summer, that approaches or exceeds 0.5 inches/day, though water is seldom available to meet the potential water use. Potential water use is greater for improved-grass or mixed-grass pastures which have greater biomass production.

    The efficiency of biomass production decreases as one moves from the northern Great Plains (cooler mean temperature) to the Southern Great Plains (warmer mean temperature), and as one moves from the tall-grass prairies (greater precipitation and relative humidity = less evaporative demand) west to the short-grass prairies (less precipitation and lower relative humidities = greater evaporative demand).

    In semiarid and arid regions, irrigation dramatically increases biomass production. However, biomass production for hay or grazing livestock systems is seldom the most profitable use of irrigation water.

    All other comments apply to any region, except the potential for getting water from streams. As precipitation decreases as one moves west, streams become fewer and farther apart; most are ephemeral. If present, aquifers become the water source for irrigation since precipitation in most semiarid regions is insufficient to support groundwater, except near perennial rivers.

    Perhaps you could provide a disclaimer at the beginning of the article that narrows the scope of application.

    Clay Robinson, PhD
    Certified Professional Soil Scientist
    Former Professor of Soil Science

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