Utah hay growers lease center-pivot corners
For many crop producers with center-pivot irrigation, the corners of fields not covered by the pivots represent a nuisance or waste. But to Brad Bunderson and his dad, Brent, of Grantsville, UT, the odd-shaped corners were an opportunity waiting to be utilized.
Since 2005, the Bundersons have been leasing 20 corners on 10 pivot circles from a local crop farmer to grow alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. The corners vary in size from eight to 10 acres. In all, the Bundersons work 190 acres spread out over a four- to five-mile radius.
They market the hay in 80-lb small square bales to horse owners in the Salt Lake City and Tooele area. Two years ago, they also started grazing some of the corners with 80 beef cows.
“We can’t always make perfect hay,” says Brad. “This gives us another way to add value by putting the grass through the cows.”
He got the idea for leasing pivot corners when the irrigation company he works for – Harward Irrigation Systems in Springville, UT – became a distributor for the K-Line irrigation system. Developed in New Zealand for livestock producers with intensive rotational grazing operations, the K-Line system makes use of sprinklers protected in hard-plastic pods and spaced 40-50’ apart along a length of polyethylene tubing.
Brad says the versatility and flexibility give the K-Line system an edge over other options, including aluminum hand lines and side-roll wheel lines, for irrigating relatively small, irregular-shaped fields and pastures.
“With both of those systems, there’s a lot of labor involved,” he says. “When you’re moving them, you’re always having to drop and add sections as you go to fit the shape of the field you’re working in. The K-Line tubing is flexible. If you have some excess line, you can just bend it back and forward until it fits the space. And you can move the lines pretty easily with a four-wheeler.”
“The K-Line system lends itself to a lot of different kinds of terrain,” adds Gary Schwank, director of sales for K-Line Irrigation North America in St. Joseph, MI. “You can set them up to work around trees in a pasture or a ditch in a field. And you can set them up on any hillside you can drive a four-wheeler on. They are also low-maintenance. The only moving parts are the sprinklers and the pump.”
During a typical year, the Bundersons start irrigating the corners in mid-April and continue through mid-October. Throughout the season, Brad, Brent and Brad’s sister, Breanna, spend a total of three to four hours a day moving their 40-50 irrigation lines with a four-wheeler. The lines are 200-520’ long and have six to 13 sprinklers and pods.
“If the fields weren’t so spread out, we could cut that time in about half,” says Brad. “We spend a lot of our time just getting from one field to the next on the four-wheeler.”
Depending on soil type and moisture-holding capacity, each line in the system gets moved once every 24-48 hours. On corners where the lines are moved every 24 hours, it takes about 8-10 days to cover an entire field with water. That doubles for fields where the lines are moved every 48 hours.
The water sources for the Bundersons’ lines are the deep wells that supply the landlord’s center pivots. On average, each corner gets about 30” of water/year. Along with the lines, they’ve purchased 400 K-Line pods for their system. Brad figures the total investment in lines, sprinklers and pods at somewhere around $40,000.
To learn more about K-Line Irrigation, visit the company Web site at www.k-linena.com or call 269-429-3000 or 866-665-5463.