Dairy farmers have a particular interest in a good water supply as it is essential for milk production which is by far the most profitable farming enterprise. Nowadays many farmers have invested in a good water infrastructure system on their holdings.

An inadequate water supply on a remote area of land: This was the problem SPS (Solar Pump Solutions) founder and engineer Bryan Davis experienced on his home farm in Borrisokane, Co Tipperary. Water needed to be hauled to livestock on a remote farm using a tractor and vacuum tank every two days which was a time consuming task. 

There had to be a better way- This farm received the first SPS solar water pump which was developed to pump water from a stream inaccessible to the livestock. The SPS pump supplied multiple troughs around the farm, enabling the use of a paddock grazing system. It did this using only solar energy and operating automatically:

SPS were promoting their award winning solar pump system at the recent Teagasc Beef 2018 event at Grange, Co. Meath. Given the drought conditions this year and difficulty in maintaining a good water supply there was a lot of interest in this low cost system.

Good grass growth is essential for milk production and due to the ongoing drought conditions the average farm is back one to two litres of milk per cow per day. According to IFAC the total potential cost of the ongoing drought on a 100-cow dairy herd over a seven-day period is c. €2,600.

Indeed many farmers are now feeding first cut silage or hay to their stock plus twice the normal amount of concentrates to keep the cows milking well. Feed compound millers are working flat out to keep their customers supplied. 

Even so the national milk supply has fallen this year even though there are a lot more cows on farms. According to the Central Statistics Office milk production on Irish farms fell for April & May. June & July will be no different. 

 Farmers using wells may have to bore deeper to keep the water coming. A typical 100-cow dairy farmer needs an average supply of 2,500 gallons of water per day (a dairy cow drinks 25 gallons of water daily). For such a demand, the cost of the actual drilling and installation of the pump for a new well would be around €4,500 to 5,000.

You must also add the cost of the pump, which for this volume, would cost around €1,500.If you are in a hard water area, you may need to install a water softener to protect the milk cooling unit. This can add another €1,500 to the price, taking the total cost to nearly €8,000.

So many farmers are now consider the option of using some form of irrigation. Most farmers live close to a river so extracting extra water is not usually a problem. Because these irrigation systems are automated they can be used at night thereby minimising any water losses to evaporation.

A landowner has a riparian right to take water from a stream running through or by his farm, however (s) he must have regard to the rights of other landowners upstream and downstream. 

Indeed milk producers & wine growers in New Zealand have been irrigating their farms for years.  An official report estimated the net farm gate GDP contribution of irrigation at $2.17 billion in 2011/2012. The area irrigated land area also increased from 457,700 hectares to 721,400 hectares during the last decade. So Irish farmers can learn from the NZ experience.

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