Hope, Pray & Drill.

We made the decision to expand the area of which our cattle can forage for feed, to do this they need water, while in abundant with rain during the wet season, it isn’t during the dry.

With the cattle selling markets as they were earlier in the year (2013) we made the decision to keep our cattle on property rather than sell at ‘give away prices’, We also decided that economically in the future we needed to sell heavier steers aiming to above 320kg rather than lighter which we had done in recent years to maintain cash flow. The effect of holding cattle is that the herd numbers increase as we’ve held onto steers, yet they are located on the same available waters as was used as the breeder herd. The solution is to create more watering points to carry the cattle to ensure sustainability of the land grazing and herd health is maintained. We do this by water point development.

To ensure the supply of fresh clean water to our animals we drill bores to obtain the water we need. A bore is a 150mm hole drilled into the ground that taps into deep water storage aquifers and water bearing sandstones. We use equipment to draw the water to the surface to supply to the animals through pipes, tanks and troughs.

The establishment of new watering points is needed for a number of reasons;

  1. Supply of clean and adequate water through the dry season is paramount to the health of animals and good animal welfare.
  2. Watering points allow a greater range of area over which a herd can graze, this spreads grazing pressure and ensures the capability of the grasses to regenerate.
  3. New watering points will allow us to spread our herd from existing points and thus reduce some numbers at these areas and utilise land that is currently not being used.
  4. Cattle will tend to forage in a 5km radius around a watering point, some cattle can and do walk out further than this, but most will stay within the 5km range. Due to the need to drink each day the areas outside of the 5km range tends to be underutilised and the areas within over utilised. Over utilisation can lead to over grazing and degradation of the land. Creating new watering point’s spreads these grazing pressures out which not only minimises animal impact but improves the health of the herd as there is less competition for the available feed.

It is quiet nerve racking drilling for new waters as there is no guarantee that you will actually get the volume and quality you want, in fact there is no guarantee you will get any water at all. Due to the rock fractures and land systems all estimates of drilling depth are only educated guesses. Irrespective if you hit water or not the driller still has to be paid. Depending on the driller this could cost anywhere from $150 to $200 per metre of bore drilled and developed.

Location of a watering point is based on experience in knowing the area and requirements of what is actually needed for your purposes. This is Robbie’s speciality. He will study maps, consider other bores in the area and speak with other locals. He also will divine using wires. We’ve never had a dud bore yet, as in a dry one but drilling depth is always a best guess!

The bore in this article was established as the cattle in the area were reliant on natural waters and springs, some from which we can pump and store for cattle use. We try not to allow direct access by the cattle to these springs as many are very rugged to access and cattle walking in them destroy the ecosystem and water quality. Being springs though, pigs  wallow in them and the water late in the dry becomes murky and unhealthy. The last wet we had was an unusually dry one and we noticing some springs going dry that have not been dry in the 5 years we have been here.

17.10.13 023_edited-1Figure 1 – A spring that has receeded more than normal due to the poor wet seasons of 2010/11 & 2011/2012.

This is not clean water and becomes stagnant and murky late in the dry season.

The bores on this property tend not to fluctuate in supply and therefore as long as we only pump what their supply is tested at will be unlikely to recede in supply over the long term.

The replenishment of springs and shallow aquifers in this area is from natural rainfall and can vary as the rainfall does. Deeper aquifers from which most of our bores source water are more abundant and dependable. Their source of water is over a much larger recharge area from other formations and soil structures that allow movement of water through them over huge distances.

So Robbie has decided he wants a new bore, and as minister of all things war and finance I gave the go ahead.

The first step is to make sure access is available for the drilling rig to get in. This road will then become the main road to the bore site.

27.08.13 012 - Copy_edited-1Figure 2 – Establishing access to the intended bore site.

Next is the drilling rig.

27.08.13 061_edited-1Figure 3 – The Drilling rig

This rig is smaller than most as it uses only 3m drill rods. The rotary drill head uses a large drill bit to cut in to the ground and the drill rods follow. These rods are hollow but very, very strong. The driller will use air to push any soil, pulverised rock and sediment from the hole by blowing air into the base of the drill down through the centre of the drill rods, then push the sediment up the outside of the rods and out the top of the hole. The driller’s use a mixture of water and a special soap with the air to keep things moving and keep the dust down, it also assists to lift the lighter debris out. The large grey mass of sediment is actually drilled basalt rock from the hole.

27.08.13 034_edited-1Figure 4 – Drilling. The air is lifting all the drilling tailings out of the hole as the rods move deeper. The bucket is collecting samples of tailings to be used to analysis rock stratas and record the bore details.

27.08.13 071_edited-1Figure 5 – Drill samples, the top is at the far lower left and progresses in 3m stages to the top of the picture. The lower middle sample is at 33m with the final at about 70m. The darker samples are basalt, the lighter are sandstone with the water bearing layer at about 65m, the very pink one at the lower right.

27.08.13 162_edited-1Figure 6 – Another bore being tested at 8 litres a second, a great supply.

Bore naming is quiet frustrating, in some ways is like naming a child; you have to live with the name of a bore for a long time. This bore eventually was called Cockatoo simply from the red tailed black cockies that live in the area. It started as Big Dog, Burnt balls, and then Red nuts because the drillers had a dog with them who got very sunburnt and you guessed it his nuts got sunburnt. Our daughter thought these names were rude so we thought we’d better call it something a little nicer. So Cockatoo stuck.

27.08.13 070_edited-1Figure 7 – Beautiful Big Dog.

We were pretty nervous drilling this bore as it was in an area where we didn’t have others in close proximity and also an area of heavy basalt. Generally where basalt is here you have to drill deep, ideally we were looking for 1.5 litres a second at hopefully only 60m full drill. For many cattle producers that wouldn’t be adequate supply, but we only intend to run 200-300 head on this water, for that 1-1.5lt/s is adequate.

We drilled to 60m, got nothing, so by this time we are thinking we have just spent $10,000 on a toilet long drop or we keep drilling and hope we hit an aquifer. We decided as another bore in a similar topographical area had water at slightly deeper we kept the drillers going.

Fortunately at 65m we got 1 litre a second. Not quite as much as we would have liked but enough to have a small solar pump draw from and supply water to several hundred head. Due to the pressures of the underground water supply the standing water level of this bore rose to 15m.

With great relief we have a bore. To ensure the bore hole sides don’t cave in the driller’s insert large steel casing and clean the bore out, they test it again and finish it off with a cement base at ground level. These final stages are called bore development. Once the drillers are finished it’s our turn to step in.

09.10.13 109_edited-1Figure 8. The bore hole developed, Not much to show for $10,000.

First rule of equipping bores – Do nothing else until you make sure it will pump water and can get it to the surface. Robbie had made a solar system frame up in his workshop and some of the infrastructure such as troughing.

We bring all this to the bore site and set up the solar system with a pump and pipe that go down the bore hole.

09.10.13 113_edited-1Figure 9 – Bore equipped and checking to make sure it can hold the supply. This is a 500W solar system pumping at just under 1lt per second, or about 800gal an hour in old scale.

Infrastructure takes a few days to put up, it includes troughing, fencing, earth pad for the steel tank, the tank itself and holding paddocks with traps and gates. We bury some pipework, especially if the cattle are going to walk near them and we always put an outlet for a fire fighting unit to obtain water from the tank in case of bushfires.

09.10.13 122_edited-1Figure 10 – Constructing some fencing and the trough. Latter the trench will go in for the pipework so it is buried and keeps the water cool.

09.10.13 120_edited-1Figure 11 – Constructing the earth mound for the steel tank to ensure its above the height of the trough.

We like steel liner tanks as they are relatively easy to construct and hold a good capacity of water to their cost. They do take a few days to put up and can be a bit tedious due to the number of bolts etc. but in general we have found them to be good tanks. This is an Aquamate tank, 13000 gal or nearly 60,000 litre capacity

12.10.13 002_edited-1Figure 12 – Tank constructed, with a roof. This stops sunlight creating algae and protects the liner, it also keeps the birds out.

Ideally we’d have aprons around the troughs and some other infrastructure but as we are trying to do this bore as economical as possible those things will have to wait. For about $20,000 we now have a new bore with assured clean water and a new home for our cows.

The only thing left to do now is go get some cows and relocate to their new home.

17.10.13 018_edited-1Figure 13- The Girls at their new home. This trough will water two paddocks and offer relief to a spring and another bore.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Beef Industry, Environment, Life on a property, Live Exports, Northern Territory., Property operations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Hope, Pray & Drill.

  1. Glenn Honor Jackoben Droughtmasters

    Enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing..

  2. Thanks, that was very interesting. I have helped out with pulling a bore to do repairs but never seen one put in. The property I was on would love to put in another bore but it was decided that for the cost and depth it wasn’t going to happen. Hope your ‘girls’ are enjoying a new water supply.

  3. Rosemary Sullivan

    Jo this was a very interesting read and with good pictures to. Really explains to process of putting in a bore – very good for station kids and visitors to read.

  4. Jo a $20k bore sounds great! And standing water at 15m !!! You could have six for what our in laws have just paid for one. Obviously much deeper over here, and standing water at 101metres, flow at 700 gal an hour. Very informative post. And your cattle look in great order!

  5. Hi Sharon. I did feel a bit bad stating the cost knowing others have to spend so much more. Thanks for pointing that out as I don’t think many realise the importance of bores to the agricultural community and the cost to establish them. The most amazing site I have seen is some of the flowing bores in QLD. Jo

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