A Cornish dairy farmer whose boreholes dried up in this summer’s heatwave has been able to secure an alternative water supply for his cows after calling in the expertise of South West Water Business.
Chris Colloby, who farms 130 acres at Kennacott Farm, North Petherwin, usually draws water from three boreholes, which are fed from springs on the farm. The unusually hot, dry conditions this year meant that at the start of July these ran dry and he found himself without enough water for his animals.
The farmer has a dairy herd of 160 cows as well as around 80 young stock and uses between 18,000 and 20,000 litres of water every day between his home, his holiday accommodation business and his livestock.
Chris was away in Cheshire when he received a worried phone call from his wife, who told him that the cows couldn’t get enough water.
“I could hear them in the background, they roar if they can’t get enough food and they were roaring because they couldn’t get enough water. I came home early and found them pushing each other out of the way to try and get access to the dregs of water that were left in the trough,” he said.
As the water levels had dropped, so too had the herd’s milk yield, with each cow typically producing five litres less milk per day less than normal. Chris estimates that this was costing him £280 a day in lost revenue with a bigger concern being the welfare risk to his livestock, particularly pregnant cows.
After contacting the wholesaler South West Water, Chris was put in touch with Nigel Ponsford, Key Account Manager for Agriculture with water retailer South West Water Business.
By chance, Nigel lives nearby and was able to come out quickly to investigate the site to find a solution. While the boreholes provide a cost effective way of drawing water for most of the year, Nigel advised that a mains connection would give the farm a contingency plan in case of another dry, hot summer in the future.
Nigel sought advice from the Environment Agency before arranging a temporary solution to get the cows immediate access to water by abstracting from a nearby river. He then liaised with the wholesaler and a contractor to install an emergency mains water connection which has seen a pipe laid under a neighbouring field, with a standpipe, so that Chris can fill large storage containers with mains water for his livestock.
Although, like many farmers, Chris is still concerned about the economic impact of the heatwave because of a likely shortage of affordable forage this winter, he is relieved to have peace of mind about his water supply.
“This year has been exceptional. These conditions may never happen again but having the mains connection means that we now have a back up plan,” said Chris.
“I know that there are a lot of other farmers who are in a similar situation and it is something that we can help with. In this case, the best solution was to apply for an emergency mains connection but it may be in other cases that there are alternative water sources that provide a cost effective way of providing a back up supply. Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions do seem to be getting more common so farmers should be making sure that they have a contingency plan in place,” added Nigel.