Spring Fed in West Marin
Water is the most essential element of life. Not just for humans, but for cows too. As ranchers, we are not only prioritizing providing fresh, clean water to our beef cattle at all times, we are committed to going one step further with providing refreshing West Marin spring water to our cattle.
Similar to the benefits people see when drinking spring water, cows also realize them. A quick biology lesson: muscle is about 75% water. The body needs to have adequate water in its system to repair cells, eliminate disease and keep metabolism operating at a normal rate.
Some spring water is capable of introducing additional oxygen into the circulatory system and naturally occurring trace minerals into the muscular and nervous systems, as well as boosting immune system health. Spring water isn’t just passing through a cow’s body; it is helping cells do their jobs better.
From a drinkability standpoint, there is nothing better or more refreshing for our cows than spring water on a hot summer afternoon. It stays at a cool, constant temperature versus standing ground water which is much more subjective to environmental temperatures.
Delivering Spring Water
The disadvantage of springs is that they can unfortunately dry up during drought conditions stopping the flow. Thanks to support from organizations who value keeping West Marin full of beautiful and productive farmland, such as the Marin Agriculture Land Trust and Marin Resource Conservation District, we are able to use modern support systems to provide cattle with easy access to fresh spring water wherever they might roam on the ranch.
The spring water is delivered from productive springs located on the property to various locations in pipelines through either gravity flow or solar powered pumps. At each of the watering locations, an easy to clean cement trough container will keep the water cool.
Using containers such as troughs is the ideal way to provide water to cattle. From an environmental aspect, keeping cattle out of groundwater access points will reduce erosion. From a cattle welfare standpoint, the water quality found in containers is more easily managed and water borne disease transmission is reduced.
An average beef cow will drink about 15-25 gallons of water per day. Abundant water is critical for cattle health and welfare, as well as efficiency in grazing and land productivity. Research for cattle has shown a positive connection between access to clean drinking water and cattle disease resistance, body condition and ability to care for offspring.
The Water and Earth Connection
The placement of water access points can greatly affect cattle grazing patterns. This, in turn, will influence the footprint cattle have on the health of the land and the soil's ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where it drives climate change. Well managed land will put carbon dioxide back into plants and the soil layer. Our natural farming management practices focus on decisions that will not only respect the land, but help create positive action for the environment we share with our local community.
Multiple access points for water also reduce the amount of physical activity cattle need to reach water. If we can make accessing water more convenient, cattle water needs will be lower. Just like in people, as physical activity increases, water loss through evaporation or sweating will occur. More water access options equals less overall water used.
Limited water access points also increases competition to access the water, resulting in stress and less grazing time. We emphasize eliminating stress points for our cattle in every management aspect. Stress-free cows are healthier, have better immune systems, consume forages more consistently and gain weight more easily. From a consumer satisfaction standpoint, less stress has also been proven to result in a more tender and flavorful beef product.
Remember, cattle are an important part of the ecosystem. The land they keep grazed and managed against overgrowth is directly involved in the water cycle. If you remember back to your elementary school years and start with water in a large body of water that water runs into, such as a lake or pond, the sun evaporates water. This then returns as precipitation onto the land. Well managed cattle pastures will in turn filter the water and return it to the benefit of the local water cycle.