My wife and I have 4 children on a farm that we own and operate a dairy most of our adult lives. We sold the last of the milk cows in December of 1995. The farm consists of 290 acres of which 137 acres is cropland. All the owned cropland is in CRP with 8 years left on payments. In 1997 we ran 180 yearling grass heifers on our owned and rented grass. This winter I bought old cows and calved them out to resale. I farm 71 crop acres on my parents land and rent their grass, plus I rent other grass in the community. In 1997 we raised 38 acres of transition soybeans for the Japanese market through KOP of which I am a member. Except for a 20 acre site on the 71 acres where I am fighting bindweed the rest of the land is currently in its second year toward OCIA certification.
As I work with farmers around the state of Kansas on the KRC Clean Water Farm Project, I am frustrated by the lack of a cheap economically powered water supply for paddock grazing. If a farmer does not have electric access at the water source the cost of getting the power there is extremely cost prohibitive and has caused farmers not to proceed with the best possible management practices on their operations. My farm has the same problem. I live in Pottawatomie Co. KS. On the east edge of the flint hills. The grass is good but the terrain is steep and the ground teeming with rock limestone ledges. I have the home 160 acres broke down into 9 paddocks at this time, however until I can develop a better water system I am limited in how many times I can break the paddocks down even though I do use some electric string to further split up the paddocks. The cattle are forced on one eighty to walk a half mile for their supply which is causing uneven grazing and travel paths which is contributing to the erosion on my farm.
The best remote system that I am aware of at this time is the solar powered water pump systems. The solar systems have been cost prohibitive in my opinion, close to $2,000, and the producers that I have been associated with who have had them claims that they are not reliable.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The first windmill was constructed by the Onaga FFA in the spring of 1999. It proved to be non-floatable and non-workable. I took parts form the windmill and rebuilt it over the summer of 1999 as well as laying waterline and building paddock fences on 80 acres this project was intended to supply water over. The windmill was constructed like a pond master utilizing barrels cut in half length wise to trap the wind and turn the pump, much like a merry go round. It was too inefficient and over the winter we rebuilt it in a more traditional style utilizing ceiling fan fins for the windmill blades. The windmill pivots with the wind and then channels the energy down the main shaft through a gear box to vertically bring the power down to a PTO roller pump. Next the roller pump wouldn’t prime so we then rebuilt the bottom part to where the roller pump was actually submerged in the water. This worked well. The windmill floats on two 50 gallon barrels and the other half is anchored to the shoreline by a long frame. This frame works really well and only occasionally needs to be relocated because of changes in water level.
The windmill worked really well, almost. I used the windmill through both summers of 2000 and 2001 and constantly worked on it to try and perfect the system. It would pump really well under a mild breeze with no load on it as Ken Schneider witnessed when he did a site visit and it also pumped good volume. However when I would try and pump the water to the storage tank on top of the hill I ran into too much back pressure. The tank was 1,500 feet from the pond and 50 feet in elevation to the top of the tank. A really windy day would fill the 1,000 gallon tank, (I estimated a 25 mile on hour wind or more) however this much wind came too infrequently most of the time so I was constantly pumping water to the 28 cow/calf pairs that were being grazed through the paddock system.
One interesting note on this, I was worried all along that the water would get too hot in the storage tank and the cattle would not like it as well. It would get pretty warm, however once I was allowing the cattle to both the pond and the water tank and I watched them walk by the pond to drink from the tank. I though that was significant.
The pond of course is in the bottom of a valley and the pasture is both direction from the pond. The waterline starts on top of one hill, runs down to the pond, across the dam, then runs alongside the pond to access the windmill and then up the other hill where the storage tank is at the highest elevation and where the waterline terminates. There are 5 spigots where I can place a portable tank with a float to water 7 separate paddocks. The windmill pumps water through a garden hose into the waterline system and supplies water to the portable tank and when enough water is being pumped pushes the excess on up to the storage tank. That is, when the wind blows enough.
The next rebuild I plan to do is instead of using the roller pump to construct and install a more conventional piston pump with a counter balance beam. I think this will be able to pump the pressure needed with less wind.
In January 2001 I was elected president of the Kansas Farmers Union. This has drastically changed the demands on my life. We have not used the windmill in 2002 and also so far in 2003. I also have not spent any time on the second part of my grant which was to construct another windmill to generate electricity to pump water on another 80 I have broke up into paddocks. I am still very interested in doing more work on both windmill projects and plan to do so in the future even though the timeline for this grant has expired. It has been really interesting and I have enjoyed the time I have spent on it.
In 2001 we hosted a Kansas Grazers tour to view the windmill. It sparked great interest and I am constantly being asked what I have done with it since then.
My work with the Kansas Rural Center and also my employment with KSU extension puts me in constant contact with farmers and organizations across the entire state of Kansas. My work with farmers on clean water practices and finances makes it a natural funnel for information to be shared. I am part of the 4 seasons grazing cluster in the KRC Heartland network in which we constantly host tours and visit each others operations. I have not contacted them yet but it will be my intention to employ and challenge the Onaga chapter of FFA which my daughter is a part of to build the wind system.