When it came to getting cattle watered on one of his pastures down in the Ozarks, Roger Shanks had to get creative. He raises cattle in Howell County, and he utilized the sun to help with his watering needs, powering a pump on a well.
His need came on a farm he uses seasonally that is not connected to his other land and doesn’t have an electric line running to it.
“I run about 50 head on it in the summer,” Shanks says. “This is 80 acres that’s separate from the others.”
When he checked on getting an electric line to the pasture, Shanks says the utility company told him it would cost $3,000 per pole to run electricity there. That led to him looking at other options and going with solar power.
“It’s a lot more economic (than paying to run an electric line),” Shanks says.
He says the solar panels, controls and pump it operates cost about $4,000 total. Now that it is in place, “it doesn’t cost anything to run,” Shanks says.
He runs cattle on the farm in the summer. That coincides with the most available sunlight. Then when he’s feeding hay in the winter, he likes having the cattle closer to home so he moves them off the pasture with the solar watering system.
The well house is located on a high point on the farm, and water runs downhill to different tanks in the paddocks.
“It’s worked really well for me,” Shanks says. “I pump it into 1,000-gallon storage tanks and it gravity feeds down into water tanks. I use solar alone, don’t have battery backups.”
Shanks has had the setup for a little over two years now, and he says it is a 300-foot well that delivers about 7 gallons a minute. He has the farm divided into eight different grazing paddocks and is in the process of putting in native grasses to boost summer grazing.
“I’ve got half of it in native warm season grass right now,” he says.
Shanks plans to plant the rest in native warm season grass soon.
He says he doesn’t know of many solar-powered watering systems in his area, but he expects there will be more in the coming years as producers consider them as an option for some farms.