Limiting Grazing Cattle Access to Ponds to Improve Water Quality, and water and Feed Intake

2003 Annual Report for OS03-008

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2003: $14,945.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Stephen Workman
University of Kentucky

Limiting Grazing Cattle Access to Ponds to Improve Water Quality, and water and Feed Intake


Use of improved strategies, such as intensive rotational grazing, requires producers to look for dependable and economical methods of providing drinking water to livestock. Poor access to water and poor water quality can affect livestock behavior and production. In situations where direct access to water is viable, benefits may be gained by the use of controlled or limited access points in ponds and streams. The implementation of limited access points may result in reduced stream and pond bank damage, reduction in erosion, improved vegetation along banks, and better and safer footing for livestock. An access ramp is the minimum improvement that can be made to a water source. A floating electric fence would help limit the number of cattle using the access ramp. Gravity-fed systems can also be implemented on sloping pastureland where a pond is located up slope from the watering site. Ultimately the use of access ramps and gravity-fed systems will help improve water quality and cattle performance.

Three farmer cooperators in Northern Kentucky participate in this project. Pasturelands in this area are rolling-to-steep and are permeated with creeks and dry runs. Cooperators herds vary between 30 and 60 cows and calves. All cooperators use ponds as watering points for beef cattle.

The first cooperator has a 5 m (15-ft) deep pond (Site 1) located in a large field where about 50 cows and calves graze continuously from March through weaning. No improvements will be installed at this pond. The same farmer cooperator provided another location where he runs a 3-field rotation with 60 cows and calves. The existing pond is about 3 m (10-ft) deep and has one side already fenced. An access ramp with floating fence is currently being installed and the pond will be fenced using temporary electric fences.

The second cooperator installed a gravity-fed system using water from an existing, completely fenced pond. Pastures are steeper at this farm as compared to other sites. This farmer has also provided access to another pond where cattle do not have access at any time to function as a control. The gravity-fed system was used all winter after it settled down. There is a need to extend the geotextile and gravel pad to minimize mud problems in one of the approaches to the waterer.

The third cooperator will have a ramp with floating fence installed during summer.

We have been documenting water quality changes in ponds by collecting monthly water samples from each pond.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Our objective is to show pond water quality improvement through installation of access ramps and gravity-fed systems. Improvement in water quality will eventually result in improved cattle performance.


  • Completed installation of a gravity-fed system at one farm.

    Started construction of an access ramp at another farm.

    Completed surveying of ponds.

    A project web site was developed and it is available at

    Started monthly collection of water samples.
    Conducted a field day for local producers on
    September 22, 2003.

    Preliminary field data collected so far indicated that deterioration of water quality can be significant for ponds located at the bottom of steep hill sides.

    Included preliminary results and construction tips in curriculum material for the Kentucky Master Cattleman Program.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  • Conducted a field day on September 22, 2003 to introduce the project to other local producers, show construction of a gravity-fed water system, and highlight problems related to free access to ponds and water quality. The meeting was attended by 80 producers.

    Included information on construction of gravity-fed system in the Kentucky Master Cattleman Environmental Stewardship curriculum. This information was presented to seven groups around the state so far, with an average attendance of 35 people per session.


Larry Ramsey

Kim Strohmeier

[email protected]
Owen County Extension Agent
University of Kentucky
Owen County Extension Service
265 Elis Highway
Owenton, KY 40359
Office Phone: 5024846703
Don Hedrick

Beef Producer
7740 Georgetown Rd
Owenton, KY 40359
Office Phone: 5024844503
Paul Veech

Distric Conservationist
Owenton Field Office
205 West Perry St.
Owenton, KY 40359
Office Phone: 5024842719
David Honaker

Beef Producer
1030 Highway 325
Worthville, KY 41098
Office Phone: 5024632604