For Rob and Melinee Leather, owners of Barfield Station in Queensland’s Dawson Valley, running their 15,500 acre (6,272 hectare) organic beef operation would be impossible without a reliable supply of fresh, clean water.
Deep bores supply permanent water for their herd of Brahman and Brahman-cross cattle. However the need to disperse water locations and pursue carbon neutral status has seen them install extensive new watering infrastructure powered by Grundfos Solar Pumping systems. The system of integrated pumps and photovoltaic arrays is delivering a far wider water supply network and substantial savings.
When Rob and Melinee Leather bought Barfield Station with the intent of establishing a certified-organic beef business, they found that the property was relatively poorly watered. The problem wasn’t water availability but a lack of watering points for the livestock, leading to high levels
of grazing pressure, livestock stress and soil erosion around troughs and dams as the cattle concentrated at the available water sources.
Increasing the number of watering points by installing new troughs, piping, underground holding tanks and transfering pumps would enable the Leathers to spread the grazing pressure out and increase the area of land available for grazing.
The existing water infrastructure consisted of pumps driven by electricity from diesel driven generators, with mains power back-up where it was available. It was clear why this infrastructure was never expanded or dispersed. The equipment required regular monitoring, maintenance and refuelling, leading to substantial secondary costs in travel time and fuel, in addition to having less time for other tasks and jobs that are required to maintain an operating cattle station.
Climate change has also been aggravating the water situation. Like all of central Queensland, Barfield Station is experiencing hotter, drier conditions with more extended drought periods than in the past. During these periods the water level in essential underground aquifers can drop significantly, resulting in low or no pressure at the well (or bore)-head.
The Leathers have committed to addressing climate change by pursuing carbon neutral status as a complement to their EU organic certification.
The desire to invest in better water infrastructure and become carbon neutral meant Grundfos Solar Pumping was ideal for Barfield Station. With an ‘agri green loan’ from the bank, the existing pumps and diesel generators were replaced with Grundfos pumps and fully integrated photovoltaic arrays. The business also expanded its watering system to include new dams, troughs and underground storage tanks.
Where the smaller, fossil fuelled system used to cost $100 to $200 per day, plus supplemental mains power and the vehicle costs for service and maintenance, the much larger Grundfos Solar Pumping system has reduced pumping costs to as little as $500 per month for back-up electricity.
The wide operating range of the Grundfos pumps suits the varied application requirements, as well as the seasonal variations in the underground aquifer water table. For example, one bore that could provide over 6,400 litres of water per hour was reduced to less than 1,200 litres per hour during the recent drought. An efficient 2kW motor also means the pumps can keep running when power from the PV array is reduced by cloud cover.
At the other end of the scale, the Station operates a solar powered CR Flex pump that transfers 60,000 litres per day from one set of holding tanks to another, across a distance of some four kilometres and a static height of 22 metres.
Once the Leathers’ transition to carbon neutral water management is complete, Barfield Station will operate Grundfos solar pumping systems. These will deliver between 5,000 litres per day from one low flow bore to 60,000 litres per day from the large dams, averaging at 24,000 litres per day.
Rob and Melinee Leather appreciate the simplicity of their plug-and-pump installation, as well as the technical support and advice that they have received from their Grundfos account manager and the local dealer.
“Reliable water supply is critical to our business and the health of our cattle,” Melinee says. “You know, it means everything to us.”