Ranchers and rural landowners often rely on ponds or dugouts to supply their livestock or farm animals with fresh drinking water. While these bodies of water can be a valuable natural resource, too often they become stagnant, algae-filled financial sinkholes.
To clean up their ponds and dugouts, many rural landowners are turning to efficient pond aeration run by renewable wind power. Even as energy costs rise, they're reviving rural pond water quality for livestock and eliminating the high cost of labor, energy and maintenance for water hauling or electric aeration.
"Our windmill pond aerator paid us back in ten days and is saving us $30,000 a year by avoiding water hauling and energy costs," says Jim Barrett, owner of the Barrett Ranch in Venus, Florida. "We could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to our bottom line by keeping our herds healthy and preventing catastrophic loss with good water. We're expanding now."
Before using windmill pond aeration, the Barrett Ranch couldn't expand due to a lack of clean, affordable water for its cattle and registered goats on 88 acres. Water was plentiful but undrinkable in 12 stagnant, algae-filled ponds.
"You wouldn't give a herd moldy feed and expect it to thrive," says Jim Barrett, the ranch's owner. "Clean water is even more important. A herd can graze in the pasture and survive without feed; but they can't drink dirty water--it'll sicken or kill them."
Traditional approaches were of little help. "I paid one man to pump well water into a tank and deliver it to troughs in the pastures," says Barrett. "It took all day and tied up equipment better used elsewhere."
Barrett considered but dismissed pumping and filtering pond water using electricity. "We'd have to run electricity out to the pond, install tubs with pumps, timers and filters," says Barrett. "We'd have to clean the filters and the tubs of algae. It was too expensive and too much work."
Generations ago, pond aeration would not have been needed to clean up stagnant water—the wind and rain did the job, stirring up the water enough to keep it oxygenated. In the last 20 years, however, pollutants and fertilizer run-off, combined with an increasing lack of rainfall, has caused many ponds and dugouts to stagnate. Medical costs for livestock that drink from algae filled ponds can be thousands of dollars. The costs of maintenance and filters for irrigation pumps can also be thousands of dollars per year.
Saving the Pond or Dugout
The only way to save these ponds and dugouts is with bottom up-water aeration, which gives the water the strength to burn off the excess chemicals and pollutants that cause algae, weed growth and stagnation. The water becomes much clearer and cleaner when air, diffused into tiny bubbles and transported by tube, is continuously pumped to the bottom of a pond or dugout.
In this effort, windmill aerators are gaining in popularity over electrical ones for a number of reasons. Powered by wind as light as three mph, windmill aerators were originally developed for farm pond use when running electricity out to ponds was found to be too expensive. Wind costs nothing. It can save farmers and ranchers thousands per year in energy, maintenance and filter costs. It can save thousands more per year in preventing livestock and farm animal loss or sickness.
Another reason for the popularity of windmill aerators is how long they last. While the windmills only have three moving parts and will last decades, electrical aeration devices have motors and generally die out in a few years after constant use. Environmentally friendly windmills also eliminate the need for costly electric power or oil-based fuels.
After investigation, Barrett chose a windmill aerator by Koenders Windmills (www. koenderswindmills.com) to clean up his first pond.
"Within 30 days, the water was clean enough to put catfish in," says Barrett. "Not long after that we had the water tested, and it was fine for our animals. Now it's crystal clear and I could drink it."
Expanding Profit, Expanding Herds
Besides saving $30,000 a year in water hauling and energy costs, switching to windmill aeration of pond water has allowed Barrett to put his labor and equipment to better use. More time is spent cultivating and improving the pastures rather than simply hauling water to his animals.
Healthy water can fatten not only ranchers' livestock but also their wallets. A study by the Western Beef Development Centre in 2000 showed that calves that drink aerated water from dugouts tend to eat more, resulting in additional weight gains of 1/3 lb. per day.
After switching to windmill aeration of pond water, Barrett's Black Angus cattle and registered Boer goats, which can cost $500 each for females and thousands each for males, are gaining weight and healthier than ever.
"With clean water for my herds in pasture, we haven't had to shoot them with anti-biotics," says Barrett. "By keeping them healthier, we'll get a better price whether for breeding or eating. At auction, people ask, 'Did you bring anything to sell?' They want to buy because they know my herds are healthy."
To their great satisfaction, rural landowners with ponds or dugouts are discovering that their wind powered aeration systems are extremely low maintenance and ruggedly reliable, even to the point of withstanding hurricane conditions.
Barrett's windmill aerator has survivied hurricanes winds as high as 110 mph with no damage. "I don't touch it; it's trouble-free," he says. "It's built to last and I expect to use it for decades."
To further expand his cattle and registered goat herds, Barrett recently added windmill aerators by Superior Windmill (www. superiorwindmill.com) to two ponds.
"I couldn't do without my windmill aerators," says Barrett. "By the time I'm done, we'll have one at every pond."
Some windmill technology, for added convenience, is available with two outgoing lines. This enables one to be used for pond aeration and the other for pumping water. Depending on the lift required, ranchers can provide clean water for up to 30 animals this way.
Fred Taylor, for instance, a beef farm owner in Blackstock, Ontario, Canada uses a pond windmill aerator made by Koenders Windmills to supply fresh water to his cattle.
"I have it rigged so it pumps water into a barrel then recycles it into the pond," explains Taylor. "In the summer, my cattle have instant, clean, fresh water 100 percent of the time. Another reason we put the windmill in...was to keep the cattle away from the main source of water, to keep a fresh supply."
Koenders Windmills and Superior Windmill are two of the world's most experienced manufacturers of windmill aeration systems. Models ship worldwide and typically range from 12 to 24 feet in height, with the hub and compressor pre-installed at the factory for ease of installation. Taller windmills typically have access to stronger winds, which can be harnessed to oxygenate and revive larger bodies of water or pump more water for livestock or farm animal use.
For more information about windmill aeration, contact Koenders Windmills Inc. From the U.S. or Canada, call them at 1-888-777-4933; Fax 1-306-721-1496; Email customersales@ koenderswindmills.com; or visit www.koenderswindmills.com.
Outside the U.S. and Canada, call 011-306-721-1495; Fax 011-306-721-1496; Email sales@ koenderswindmills.com; or visit www.koenderswindmills.com.
Or write to Superior Windmill Inc. at 3426 Saskatchewan Drive, Regina, SK Canada S4T 1H1; call 1-888-821-5533 toll free in North America; Email: info@ superiorwindmill.com; or visit www.superiorwindmill.com.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.