Winter can be rough on your herd, especially when temperatures plummet to below freezing for several days or weeks on end. To make matters worse, you need to keep your water from freezing. Sure, you can keep water in one place that’s covered in a shelter. However, that’s not always practical when putting your herd out to the pasture to get some exercise.
Find out some ways to keep your cattle water from freezing without using electricity. Electricity not only faces difficulties when running power cords out to your fields, but it also can have problems due to inclement weather if power lines go down.
1. Move Water to a Sunny Location
Much like direct sunlight can melt snow off of dark-colored roofs or pavement, the same is true for water stored in a dark-colored container. The heat from the sun can prevent water from freezing.
Consider moving water to a southern part of the pasture and away from your indoor shelter for your herd. The sunlight, combined with any breezes that move the water’s surface, can help keep your water from freezing.
2. Larger Water Troughs
Large bodies of water take longer to freeze compared to smaller ones, like a 55-gallon drum won’t freeze as fast as a 13-gallon trash bin. Think about placing larger water troughs on your pastures instead of smaller troughs. For example, the smallest ones are 140 gallons for cattle. Larger ones that work better for winter herding reach up to 500 gallons.
3. Cover the Water
Cover part of the trough’s surface while leaving enough surface exposed for your herds to drink. Adding a cover can prevent frigid air from reaching the water’s surface. Once the top layer freezes, the subfreezing temperatures can seep deeper until it becomes difficult or impossible for cattle to break the surface of the ice.
Plywood or polystyrene foam insulation works just fine for this. Simply attach these boards to the sides of the tank with C-clamps. After that, consider adding straw or another covering layer on top of the sturdy plywood or firm insulation.
4. Insulate Your Troughs
Insulating your water container represents an inexpensive way to keep water liquid throughout the winter. The key is to take care of this before subfreezing temps hit, so think about preparing for winter in October and November.
Bury your water troughs in a shallow hole. This will lessen the impact frigid air has on the water because the ground won’t be as cold as the air. Stacking straw or even snow around the trough can help. Used black tires can also help. Place them around your trough, especially a round one, because the black rubber will absorb sunlight and make the edges of the water warm.
Another technique is to have two troughs, one inside of the other. Place a larger trough down first. Put the smaller one inside of it. Then place insulating material, like straw or foam insulation, in between the layers.
5. Float Something to Keep the Water Moving
Moving water doesn’t freeze as easily because it moves, and it takes a long time to freeze moving water. Some farmers put floats in their troughs, and cattle can move them to get to the water. Look for special black rubber balls called “cow balls” for your troughs. For smaller water troughs, a basketball or soccer ball will work.
6. Propane Heaters
In some frigid climates where subzero temperatures can last for weeks or even months, purchasing a propane heating system might be unavoidable. Heaters and bubblers will keep the water warm, even if the weather knocks out the electricity to your farm.
There are two downsides of propane. First, there is the cost. Fossil fuels can get expensive based on supply and demand, so make sure you have enough propane on your property before the winter months hit. Second, propane buildup can be dangerous, so make sure to purchase a propane heater with a great safety rating designed for cattle as opposed to rigging a DIY system.
7. Purchase the Right Water Holder
Our Springfield farm and ranch supply store can supply your farm with the right water trough, tank, or holder to meet your wintertime needs. Contact us or call (417) 865-0312, and we’re happy to help.