Irrigation risers from underground lines often cost $200-$300. Z pipes, pivot elbows and center pipe can cost the farm more than $600 each and all are common irrigation freeze damage repairs. Often next year’s irrigation startup problems are winter damage that can be prevented. Time spent now will prevent damage and lead to a better start on next year’s irrigation season. Inspection of the system now allows you to make improvements and repairs in the less costly off season and get irrigation problems out of the way for spring planting season when everyone is busy. Steel pipes up in the air may freeze solid days before we think of freezing weather on the ground.
Park pivots in a safe location
When choosing a location to park the system for the winter, consider the three most common potential sources of winter damage: Wire theft is less likely in a visible but inaccessible area of the field; Wind damage is less likely if pivot points into or away from the wind direction rather than perpendicular to wind direction; and squirrels and other rodent damage to span wire is rare when pivots are a few hundred feet from the tree line.
Get rid of the brush and branches near equipment
Squirrel and chipmunk damage to span-wire and gasket can be minimize by removing limbs near equipment parked for the winter preventing animals jumping between trees and the structure. Trimming trees and removing brush near control panels and disconnect boxes reduces the chance of rodent damage. Removing woodchucks from the vicinity of pivot and pumping plant pads or electrical box can also help prevent damage.
Drain pivots and solid set systems
Most of the currently designed pivots have automatic frost drains that drain the main overhead pipe. Solid set systems may have automatic drains but you should always inspect that water has been eliminated from the pump to the furthest ends of the system. Plugged automatic frost drains can lead to major repairs if not caught in a fall inspection. Rock traps need to be cleaned and drained, some designs may accumulate water condensing in the pipe over the winter leading to freeze cracks in rock traps that are emptied and put back in place. To avoid this issue many producers install a piece of hardware cloth held in place by the lock ring to allow condensate to leave the system. Pivot supply lines, end gun supply and hydro control hoses are often installed to allow drainage but the hose may sag and trap water which can lead to damage. Remember to cap all large openings into the system to prevent bird nesting.