Calculating the Costs of Water Systems

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Source: Beef Cattle Research Council

When considering various water sources and designing an appropriate system, economic analysis and projections are helpful. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Water Systems Calculator is a helpful tool. Producers can examine several different systems and input their herd size and cattle type (grassers, cow/calf) to calculate costs and time to pay off each system. After determining capacity, site conditions and grazing management, producers can estimate costs for the system most appropriate for their operation. Herd size, capital costs, and current calf prices will provide an estimate of how much time it will take to pay off the system.

Matching the water requirement with water system capacity to reach the optimum utility rate is a factor to consider when selecting and designing a livestock water system. Every operation will have different costs depending on their individual circumstances, and producers are encouraged to do a thorough comparison between viable options. Examining data from several water system types relative to calf prices, Canfax noted that in most scenarios solar pumping systems have the lowest initial cost compared to windmill and shallow pipe systems. Solar pumping systems also took the shortest time to pay off the initial cost. Herds of 100 head or less take a longer time to pay off the initial investment. As herd size increases, the per unit cost of a watering system on a per head basis declines, resulting in a shorter pay off period and higher net benefits. When factoring in the improved gains and health of livestock, these numbers can further be improved20.

The following table illustrates the number of years it can take to pay off initial costs based upon herd size, calf price and watering system selected.

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