KIM BERNARD / SHUTTERSTOCK
pasture management BY LORETTA SORENSEN
You’ve Got WATER
… now it’s time to think seriously
about upping your irrigation game
In states such as Missouri, the
Reasonable Use rule in Surface Water
Law, allows landowners to take as
much water as they need from a creek
or river running through their property,
as long as that use doesn’t impair
the downstream viability of the water
in that resource.
“In many areas, the price of land is
high enough that it’s more and more
viable to install an irrigation system,”
Horner says. “That’s especially true
if, in a drought situation, the only
option is to depopulate your livestock
herd. It’s more difficult than ever to
recover from reducing cattle herd
numbers in this kind of scenario.”
Additional information required to
make an informed decision about setting
up an irrigation system includes:
1. What is a typical amount of
precipitation for the area?
2. When will the forage be needed?
3. What time of year will the forage
4. Is the forage primarily an energy
or protein source, or what type
of forage is required?
5. How will the crop be harvested?
6. Will it be used for hay, silage, or
7. Will the forage be annual or
8. What type of drought tolerance
will the crop have/need?
9. What is the soil type and soil
fertility in the area where the
crop will be grown?
10. What is the most effective way
to deliver the irrigation water to
The slope of the land and shape of
the field and the soil type all affect
how much irrigation water will be
absorbed and how much will run off.
Oddly shaped fields may allow only
certain types of irrigation systems to
be used. The rate of water absorption,
rrigation may or may not be a feasible way to produce forage for
livestock. Before investing money and labor in an irrigation system,
producers should uncover answers to a number of questions.
“Determine how many acres you need to irrigate and how
much water you can put down on each acre,” Joe Horner, University
of Missouri, Agricultural Economics Extension Specialist, says.
“Know how much water your crop needs and how much water you can
actually get your hands on.”
30 I WORKING RANCH I APRIL / MAY 2021