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Switching from Flood to Pivot Irrigation Leads to Tripled Hay Production

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Written by Andy Oerman |

A couple of years after George Kahrl graduated with a sociology degree from Harvard in 1983, he bought a small, flood-irrigated ranch with 140 heifers. Over the years, he bought and sold a number of farms and ranches from families who were getting out of the business, built them up and sold them again.

Kahrl started Sarah Faith Ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming, from scratch in 2016 and now has 1,000 mother cows. It’s a “grass ranch,” meaning no grain and no row crops. He grows a mix of pea, oat and triticale hay, and pays particular attention to enhancing the forage and range lands to improve the health of the environment and their cattle and other wildlife.

Sarah Faith Ranch sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet and was previously all flood irrigated. But with the help of his Valley® Irrigation dealer, 307 Irrigation, Kahrl has installed four center pivots. The results have been outstanding.

Pivot KahrlGeorge Kahrl's ranch has four center pivots over 500 acres of hay and the results have been extraordinary.

His hay production per acre has tripled, and the nutritional value of that hay has doubled. Kahrl was formerly getting one ton per acre with 7% protein using flood irrigation; with pivot irrigation, he’s getting three tons per acre with 15% protein content.

Plus, the increased production has allowed him to free up additional land. His 500 acres under pivots supplies 1,500 tons of hay and frees up an additional 500 acres of pasture. Because his pivots are fairly new, he hasn’t seeded alfalfa yet, but anticipates equally solid results with pivot irrigation.

Kahrl also uses AgSense®, a smart irrigation solution from Valley, to monitor and control his pivots. Because they’re spread over 30 miles, he says remote management is a “huge benefit.” AgSense saves him time, as well as fuel and labor costs. In addition, he uses Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) speed control to apply more or less water depending on the soil map. VRI helps make all areas of his fields more profitable, avoiding unnecessary areas, applying water more efficiently and avoiding runoff.

Trail KahrlThe panoramic view might be the only thing better than the increase in production Kahrl got by switching from flood irrigation to center pivot irrigation.

Kahrl thanks Shaun Choate of 307 Irrigation for his assistance throughout the process of converting from flood irrigation to center pivots. “The Choate family has been great,” he says. “Valley is working with people who understand the product and give excellent support.”

At the end of the day, his favorite part of farming is simple. “My favorite thing is just looking at the windrows and putting up a lot of nice hay.”

To learn how pivot irrigation can increase production on your farm or ranch, contact your local Valley dealer today.

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