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Low Cost Grain/Water Solutions

“It was also very inexpensive to build as we had most of the materials lying around. The only cash costs were for screws, spray foam for filling cracks and leaks, and the 12 volt electric winch. I spent less than $100 for these.” -Grant Lastiwka

A couple of Alberta ranches have again proven the axiom: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” While to most people the term ‘innovation’ suggests something new, two finalists in a competition at the 2008 Western Grazing Conference Innovation Awards in Edmonton showed dilapidated, old equipment could be put to good use.

The innovation competition created in 2007 recognizes those home grown ‘good ideas’ for tools, equipment and systems producers’ develop to improve management of livestock and pasture.


Grant Lastiwka, who ranches near Innisfail, Alberta, needed a very mobile and low cost supplemental feeding system to meet the dietary needs of his cattle under his extended grazing season management system. “Flexible management is very important if you are extending the grazing season,” says Lastiwka. “The amount of snow, the date the grass quit growing, and even the height of the pasture will have an impact on the nutritional value of the pasture and how much supplemental feeding is required. Even if pasture is short, a little supplement can go a long way. I wanted an efficient way to deliver the needed supplement to cattle on pasture miles from home.

Lastiwka sought the help of Tim Donald, a neighbour and carpenter in converting Lastiwka’s old and no longer used slide-in stock racks into a feed delivery system. “There are old stock racks all around the country which are no longer used,” says Lastiwka. “It made financial sense to put these stock racks to use as a feeding system instead of buying something new.”

It took the pair part of two weekends to convert the stock racks. First they built a false floor in the stockracks out of scrap 2X6 and used plywood. The floor was sloped from the top of the stock racks (cab end) to the bottom at the rear (bumper end of the truck box). They covered the plywood floor with roofing tin salvaged from an old shed to make the floor really slippery. The open sides and back of the stock racks were covered with plywood. Self-tapping screws were used to attach the plywood and floor to the stockracks. The gate on the rear of the stock racks was converted so it would lift vertically. A small electric winch from Princess Auto along with aircraft cables and pulleys was used make a lift for rear gate of the stock racks. Controls for opening and closing the gate were mounted inside the truck cab.

“We also salvaged some belting from an old elevator feeder leg and old swather canvas to deliver the grain to the driver’s side of the truck,” says Lastiwka. They made a sloped, U-shaped trough along the bottom of the end gate of the stock racks so when the end gate is opened with the winch, the grain flowed out into the trough and then slid sideways to be placed in a narrow band on the ground at the side of the truck. An extension spout made from rolled tin was attached to the end of the belting and was attached by chain to the back of the stock racks. This extension allows the driver to see the supplement as it is placed. The idea is to drop the band of grain or supplement along a fence line, making it difficult for cattle to walk on or lay on the grain, minimizing feed losses. By shortening the chain the spout can be lifted up and out of the way for road travel between pastures.

When the stock rack feed system is not in use, Lastiwka suspends the stock rack from cables on a frame. To load, he simply backs his truck under the stockracks, lowers the system into the truck and ties it down to the corners of the truck box. He then fills it with the amount of supplement needed and can quickly deliver the supplement to pasture.

Lastiwka has made extensive use of this supplemental feeding system since it was built in 2001. “We used it a lot during the drought in 2002-03,” he says. “I have used it to deliver low-starch supplements such as pulse screenings, malt barley byproducts, and canola meal. It works very well. I can deliver supplement to distant pastures quickly and easily. It was also very inexpensive to build as we had most of the materials lying around. The only cash costs were for screws, spray foam for filling cracks and leaks, and the 12 volt electric winch. I spent less than $100 for these.”


Every cattleman knows the advantages of keeping cattle out of dugouts and riparian areas. But it is not always possible, or financially feasible to have a solar pumping system or watering system at each dugout. Rycroft, Albertaarea rancher Christoph Weder’s solution was to convert an old, dilapidated 100 barrel water truck into a complete watering system which can be moved to where it’s needed.

“I bought a 1954 International water truck at a farm sale for $600,” says Weder. “Due to its age the truck was no longer road worthy, but the large 4,500 gallon tank gave it a lot more value than it cost.”

Weder says the truck did run but the brakes were “iffy” so he had it hauled home for another $300. He salvaged steel from the local dump and used half of an old 500 gallon fuel tank split lengthwise for the trough.

The rear drinking trough is attached right to the truck and is gravity fed from the truck tank. A simple float valve keeps the trough full. Wedder added valves and a quick coupler for the second, belly tank for additional drinking area.

Weder parks the truck beside the water source and uses an old banjo pump for filling the water truck as required. He has also added a solar pumping unit which gives him the option of not having to refill the truck with the banjo pump as often.

Weder also attached a tow hitch to allow him to pull the water truck with his tractor to different parts of the pasture and between dugouts so he does not have to rely on starting the vehicle. He also built and attached a mineral feed bunk to the truck.

The most time consuming part of the project was applying $150 worth of Tremclad paint to the truck. “Before painting, the rusted truck looked like a piece of junk out in the pasture,” he says. “Now it looks good. I even added a flag pole on the truck to celebrate Canada Day.”

“The cost of the truck and all the modifications made was less than $1,500, but the value of this watering system is priceless. Not only does it keep cattle out of the water sources, it allows flexibility in terms of quick fix pumping water when resources get short and it can be used for intensive grazing on high percentage alfalfa to reduce bloat since it anti-bloat surfactant can be added to the truck tank.”

Gerald Pilger is a farmer and freelance writer who lives near Ohaton, Alberta.

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