University of Georgia researchers are hoping solar-powered wells will help preserve water quality and cattle health on isolated cattle farms.

The system uses solar panels to power an electric well pump that provides water for cattle on isolated pastures. It has been used for the past year in Madison County where a farmer found that less than five hours of sunlight a day was enough to keep water tanks full.

“Isolated livestock need water, and either the farmer has to take water to the livestock or we can use solar power to pump water (from a well),” said Gary Hawkins, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences researcher who designed and installed the system.

The Madison County site is a demonstration system installed as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant. The grant provided funds to test how these systems work and how much they cost to operate.

Hawkins and Madison County Extension agent Adam Speir hosted a field day on Dec. 6 that attracted about 40 farmers from middle and northeast Georgia.

The solar-powered pumps allow farmers to install watering troughs on their most isolated pastures, helping keep livestock out of streams and ponds. Allowing cows to wade into and drink from farm ponds and streams can have a severely negative impact on water quality across the state.