Solar drinking water system improves cattle farm's green credentials

The new mobile system installed at Eves Hill Farm in Booton, near Reepham, draws water from a stream for the herd of Hereford cattle.

Article by Chris Hill from EDP

A Norfolk farm has harnessed solar energy to pump fresh drinking water for its cattle - while resolving a potential pollution issue on the neighbouring river.

The new mobile system installed at Eves Hill Farm in Booton, near Reepham, draws water from a stream for the herd of Hereford cattle.

It removes the need for containerised water to be delivered to the field every day.

But it also prevents the animals drinking from the stream, damaging the banks and sending sediment, manure and pollutants into a tributary of the protected River Wensum.

Of the £2,200 total cost, £1,500 came from the Water Sensitive Farming fund administered by the Norfolk Rivers Trust.

Zac Battams, one of the trust's advisers on the Water Sensitive Farming team, said it was a good example of simple, practical measures that farmers could take to protect valuable waterways.

"The whole initiative is about trying to come up with simple, practical, inexpensive solutions that together have a cumulative effect can have a real difference on a river," he said.

"Firstly, the sediment itself is a pollutant. It is part of the natural process, but when you have got excess loading caused by damage to the banks, it can smother the spawning ground for things like trout, you get an increase in turbidity so light cannot penetrate into the system as well.

"Also, there is a correlation between the amount of sediment and the amount of phosphate you will find in a system.

"So if we can keep that sediment loading down by keeping the cattle out, reducing the amount of dung, reducing the breaking down and poaching of the bank, then it ticks all of the boxes to help with the larger problem that is happening in the Wensum."

The solar panels also power the electric fencing to contain the "mob-grazing" animals, which are regularly moved to new pastures as part of a "regenerative farming" approach to improve soil health.

Farmer Jeremy Buxton said: "This is the coming together of innovation with regenerative farming. We are using modern technology and renewables in this regenerative system and I think it is a game-changer for us.

"Now the river can regenerate and we can still use the water. It fits perfectly with the whole philosophy of what we want to do here."

Jeremy Buxton (left) with his new solar-powered drinking water system at Eves Hill Farm near Reepham, along with Zac Battams (centre) and Ed Bramham-Jones from the Norfolk Rivers Trust - Credit: Chris Hill