Zimmatic Blog

5 Unusual Applications for Center Pivots

Jul 5, 2023

5 Unusual Applications for Center Pivots

We know center pivot irrigation is one of the best solutions to get more yield using fewer resources. Center pivots are ideal for keeping thirsty row crops hydrated during growing season. But did you know they can help clean up after a couple thousand cows, make frozen soil usable, or produce pumpkins the size of compact cars? Pivots—though seemingly simple, straight-forward machines—can be used for a variety of applications. Let’s discuss some less-common uses.

Waste not

Charles Ahlem had millions of gallons of manure from his 1,600-cow dairy operation, and just one wastewater lagoon to store it. His son, Mark Ahlem, a nearby farmer, was looking to modernize his irrigation systems while also best utilizing available resources. With a little creativity, they solved each other’s problems and made a positive environmental impact in the process.

When Mark decided to upgrade the farm’s old and inefficient flood, aluminum sprinker and tape irrigation system to pivots, he chose three Zimmatic 9500CC Custom Corner systems, which enabled him to bring additional acres into production.

With newly installed pivots, Mark could now chemigate and – teaming up with his father – fertigate, as well.

Now, the wastewater created from the dairy farm is pumped through the pivots and used to irrigate crops, saving water and promoting environmental stewardship.

Keeping things cool

Speaking of dairy operations, let’s talk cows. Center pivots can play an important role in raising cattle—just visit Fazenda Santo Antonious, a dairy farm in Brazil for proof. Dairy cows are hungry creatures, sometimes needing up to 50,000 calories a day—and that requires a lot of forage across a lot of pasture. Pivots—especially those capable of remote monitoring thanks to FieldNET™—can keep the forage crop irrigated without disruption of the herd.

That’s pretty handy, but dairy producers in New Zealand found an even cooler use for their pivots (literally). Not only did pivot irrigation keep their forage growingit kept their cows cool, too! Heat stress can seriously affect milk production (by up to 25%), lower fertility, damage unborn cows and more. By running pivots over the herd, the ranchers reduced heat stress, keeping their cows happy and their milk flowing.

Softening soil

In farming, nothing is guaranteed, but you can usually assume the chain of events goes something like this: plant, irrigate, grow, harvest. This was not so for Levi and Jena Ochsner of Double O Farms in 2022 thanks to some unique conditions.

Double O Farms faced a lot of challenges in 2022. A combination of drought and an extremely cold winter in their area of Nebraska left their fields incredibly hard, making them practically impossible to plant. Fortunately, their Zimmatic pivots offered a solution: water the soil to use the soil. Or, pre-plant irrigation. And while pre-plant irrigation is common in some areas, this was something new to the Ochsners and others in their area. As Jena Ochsner put it, pivots helped them “flex that resiliency muscle.”

Finding common ground

One of the unique benefits of center pivot irrigation is the ability to raise multiple different crops in one pivot circle. But what if, instead of dividing up the circle into separate crops, it was divided into separate farms? In sub-Saharan Africa, the Daugherty Global Institute’s CIRCLES initiative took this concept and ran with it.

The Institute recognized an opportunity to help small farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana increase yields and improve their communities. First, the initiative helps small farmers combine resources to buy individual pivots. These pivots are then used communally; farmers treat the pivot circle like a pie, with each farmer taking a “slice” upon which to grow their crops.

The entire community reaps the benefits. Increased yields and lower costs allow more small farmers to produce crops for commercial consumption. The result: growers can go beyond small-scale farming and pursue opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Protecting giant pumpkins

Moving from sub-Saharan Africa to the western United States, we find another prizewinning application for pivots: growing giant pumpkins. These behemoths are a huge—no pun intended—commitment. First, there’s the sheer amount of time and effort they take to grow. You need to carefully fertilize and irrigate. Then, if you’re entering contests or selling them to Halloween superfans, there are cosmetics to consider. Girth and weight aren’t enough—the pumpkin’s skin must be kept pristine. And Jim Seamons found a way to use his pivot to do just that.

A former dairy farmer turned pumpkin grower, Jim is rightfully proud of his pumpkins—especially the ones that reach over 1,000 pounds. His Zimmatic pivot, once used for growing feed, now helps raise some of Utah’s largest giants. Jim relies on it for irrigation and fertilization, but he found another use as well: washing off legions of hungry bugs. This keeps each pumpkin unblemished for curious onlookers and in perfect shape for contests or collectors.

These are just a few of the many less common ways farmers throughout the world use their pivots. If you have some unique uses of your own to share, DM us on Instagram or Twitter—we’d love to hear all about it!

And if you’re interested in learning more about Zimmatic pivots (or discussing uncommon ways to use them for your fields), reach out to your local dealer today