This was first posted August 23, 2010.
Today is my third (and most likely FINAL) look at irrigating!
If you want to own cows in Wyoming, plan on feeding them through the winter. For those of you who want to try to run them just on pasture… I want to remind you of an incident called the Blizzard of 1889. Ranchers learned a hard lesson then… and we’ve fed hay ever since!
To make hay here… you need to irrigate…This method, known as flood irrigation, is how we do the majority of our fields. It starts with a series of water ditches fed by a dam in the Nowood River. In the fields it looks like this.
If the dam is set right… water is NOT continuing down this ditch. It has to go somewhere, in this case, the smaller ditch where I’m working.
When you have a dam in place, like this one, it’s called a “set”. Depending on the set’s location, we might leave it for 4, 6, 8, or 12 hours. It depends on how long it takes for water to flood that area of the field. You can see the water backed up and flooding out across the field. The secret to this method is these cutouts. Staggered along the ditches’ edges, this allows for the flow of water out of the ditch.
Let’s put some water in it…
When you move the dam down the ditch… you’ll fill these back in with mud… and open new ones.
For this kind of irrigating, you need a shovel… an orange plastic dam… a metal barrier to hold the plastic dam. The dog is optional.
The barrier is shoved down into the ditch… The dam is spread across the water. Grab the dam and spread it over the water. Now… step on it… and the water should fill it up and start backing up.
Now, grab your shovel. Tuck the edges of the plastic down into the bottom and edges of the ditch. This seals the dam so it doesn’t “blow out”. Water backs up… flows out of the cutouts… and irrigates the hay.
In the summer, you’ll do this 2, 3, or 4 times a day. It’ll dry out your hands, get you wet, and cover you with mosquito bites… gotta love it!Find me here!