NAPANEE - Up until last summer Brian Windover was consistently dealing with a problem during calving season: cows habitually hid their newborn calves in the long marshy grasses of his property, located on the South Shore of Hay Bay in Greater Napanee.
Somehow the Kingston chapter of Ducks Unlimited got wind of the situation and paid Windover a visit. The result was a 500-metre fence constructed between the beef cattle and the wetland and a 30-metre wide buffer zone to prevent runoff from entering the wetland.
"We try to deal with farmers who have wetlands that they want to keep and improve," says Rob Shulist, a resource specialist for the organization.
Windover says the solution Shulist came up with has proven to be effective for his operation and appears to be working well for Ducks Unlimited. "They wanted to keep the cattle out of the area and to protect the duck habitat," says Windover, recalling that the project cost "around $1800." He says that under the deal he took the measurements, bought materials and installed the fence. He was then reimbursed the full amount.
Shulist says the organization is able to free up money for such projects through donations and funding from Ducks Unlimited Incorporated in Memphis.
He says most wetlands in Ontario are known as beaver floods. Shulist says the terms refer to areas where dams have flooded trees or created small ponds. "We try to show the importance of those areas," says Shulist. "We try to see if we can mediate between the beaver and the farmer."
Another recent project was done with a farmer in the Parham area, north of Kingston. Shulist says in that case as well the cattle were fenced out of the wetland and a solar-powered pump was installed to bring the water supply up to a trough, rather than having cattle go to the source.
Chuck Gobeil, owner of Renewable Energy in Kingston, says systems like the solar-powered pump are becoming more popular.
"Farmers are looking to improve the quality of their water," says Gobeil. "Better water and better food means better profits."
The system Gobeil sold to Ducks Unlimited is fitted with solar modules. He explains that the modules are used to generate electricity, which then charges the batteries that power a 12-volt pump. A switch in the trough activates the pump and cows drink using the demand system. Gobeil says pumps are designed to handle almost any size of herd.
"People don't realize how advanced these water systems are, how flexible and how powerful" he says. "They can pump anywhere from hundreds of gallons to thousands of gallons of water. There's no limit on the amount of water we can deliver."
One of the real benefits to solar pumps, says Gobeil, is that as long as they're exposed to a few hours of sunshine, the batteries will last for several days.