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How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Livestock discussions including other discussions such as poultry, fish farms and beekeeping.

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How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:53 pm

Since we have livestock I have been trying to think of ways to keep a the water thawed in a grid down situation in the winter. As a nice side effect I was hoping to be able to use this solution to save myself some $$ on my power bill from running a stock tank heater. First off - I don't do "on demand water" at my place for the critters. They have a large sock tank that is also a rain catch for the water that comes off the hay shed (no I don't worry about the quality of water; they drink from nasty puddles and ponds all the time and I have never had a problem), when I need to I will top off the water with the outdoor faucet. Also if the grid is down my pump won't be working (if I am fortunate enough at the time to have acquired a solar pump I may have a more efficient way of suppling water, though, at this current time we don't). So I have accepted that I will be hand pumping and hauling water - that doesn't bother me. But keeping the water than I haul out there thawed does worry me. I know it must possible people kept cattle and horses before electricity came along right?

I have heard of a couple of possible solutions including:

A battery powered aerator in the tank (keep water moving and therefore not freezing?): this sounds like a problem waiting to happen, recharging batteries, not moving enough water, having it break, etc.... if it works.
Floating a ball in the tank (as it moves around it discourages freezing)
Making a compost mound under the tank (the heat from the compost will warm the tank): maybe I'm wrong but I don't think this will work. Most composting action, which generates the heat shuts down in the cold temps of the winter up here.
Simply walking out and busting the ice twice a day with a sledge hammer or hatchet: this would work until we had a cold snap and temps stayed at 0 for a week then I would have a giant ice cube in the pasture.
Painting the tank black and covering it with a black tarp with a small hole cut in it (using solar heat and insulation to keep things liquid): Again i think our area would test the limits of this....

Then I found this: Adding Salt and I think it might be key...

As for the water trough, I think rubber is by far the best choice. Here are a few tips to fight freezing water. 1) A thick bed of green grass clippings or vegetation under the trough, in a dugout area will compost and adds a little heat to the bottom of the trough. 2) Remember salt will drop water’s freezing point significantly. I you have a salt lick, it’s probably by the trough anyway, so pull it out for a while and salt the water.

Salting water is not unhealthy for our animals (cow & horse) and after days of temps below 20-F, my trough was slush on top (not ice). I also put abt 10 Comet goldfish in my trough every Spring. The kind you buy at pet shops to feed to bigger fish – costs a buck or so for 10. I still have 6 in the trough now from last Spring. The salt will not hurt them either.

The goldfish are great for mosquito control because they love mosquito larvae. They also control the algae and moss in the trough. Comet goldfish (or feeder goldfish) will survive year round outside. They are NOT tropical fish like some think. In fact, Comets won’t even breed if their water is warmer than 50 – F. Ice is not a problem for them.

You can use table salt, but table salt is made up of Sodium Chloride (NaCl) + iodine + silica. I prefer canning salt or sea salt because it is only NaCl. Most freshwater on the planet’s surface contains roughly 1 tablespoon of NaCl per 5 gal.. Well water usually has much less NaCl. I usually use 2-3 tablespoons per 5 gal. which isn’t even enough to kill the vegetation (moss) in the trough.

Salt will also keep the bacteria count in your trough down thus eliminating many health issues. The way this works is that the salt in the water pulls the water from bacteria cells through osmosis and the bacteria dies.

CAUTION: When water evaporates, the salinity increases. Don’t keep adding salt. Top off the trough with plain water. When water starts to freeze, the water molecules turn to ice, the salt molecules prevents some of the water molecules from freezing thus lowering the freezing temp., but the more water that freezes, the higher the salinity will be.


What do you guys think? Would this work? What would the temp limits be?
Are there any other ideas I haven't read yet?
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Empress » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:55 pm

interesting, never heard of using salt, but it does make sense, as long as you don't add too much. and you do need to account for the animals drinking some of the salt, as well as the water evaporation. so the evaporated water doesn't need re-salting, but the cows drinking the salt water will. you'd have to figure out how to tell how much salt you would need based on evap. tests in your area, or some such.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:51 pm

I also found this - a little while ago. I really want to try making one. It smaller than the tank I have currently have, but I think it would be ok as long as i kept it full. And I could replace it with the larger one for the summer...

Solar Stock Tank
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Wa ... veTank.htm

It might be that combining this with some of the above will be just what I need to do...
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby goodoleboy » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:11 pm

in the winter time I rely on the creek, in fact that is how I water my cows year round. In the days before elect. you wouldnt even think of livestock with out a creek or stream. Now keep in mind with where I live freezing water isnt much of a concern since ponds and streams only freeze for a week or two during the winter.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby TtnTransplant » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:39 pm

If you have horses, put them in with the cows. Horses will paw at the ice and break through if not too thick.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Pedro wyoming » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:10 pm

You may want to research that salt idea a little further. Salt concentrations that are comparable to seawater freeze at 28F. At this concentration, you will kill the animals by dehydration.

Here is a reference.

http://www.onr.navy.mil/focus/ocean/water/temp3.htm

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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:33 am

Thanks Pedro - that's what I needed. The salt thing is NOT going to be as helpful as I was first thinking, the amount of salt I would add to the water that would be equivalent to what they would need in their diets anyways, would not be sufficient to effect the freezing temperature, anymore salt and it negativity effect their health.

But that solar stock tank - I have high hopes for that. Already got it on the list of things to try for next winter.... Did you take a look at that? Any improvements you might make??
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Pedro wyoming » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:10 am

Lostfalls wrote:Thanks Pedro - that's what I needed. The salt thing is NOT going to be as helpful as I was first thinking, the amount of salt I would add to the water that would be equivalent to what they would need in their diets anyways, would not be sufficient to effect the freezing temperature, anymore salt and it negativity effect their health.

But that solar stock tank - I have high hopes for that. Already got it on the list of things to try for next winter.... Did you take a look at that? Any improvements you might make??


I am working on it LostFalls. I looked over the designs in the links. I received some steel pipe with aluminium fins on it. I am gonna use them as collector and radiator tubes on a similar system. So far i only have the materials. :blush: It has been too cold to construct anything...does this sound like i am whining???

As to a direct answer to your question. For those with clear collector panels, you might want to explore fresnel lenses with them. I was thinking that if the fresnel lens was offset from the southern side of the tank, it would magnify the airspace heat considerably. The problem with this is that maximum efficiency of the fresnel lens would over heat the tank cover. If the tank were positioned such that it got maximum sun in the afternoon, then the water gets heated without overheating the tank and solar assembly. a 3' square fresnel lens has a focal point that will melt zinc in a few minutes so you can see the potential for trouble.

My winter days range from 30F to -26F so it will require a lot of attention to work without overdoing it.


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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:47 pm

Very cool - I look forward to hearing how yours turns out and maybe applying those modifications to the one I am going to make. If I could just keep it from freezing solid I would happy. I know they will drink more if the water is not setting right above freezing but I know of other methods to keep things moving though their digestive systems.

EDITED TO ADD: I just read up those lenses and scared the living daylights out of myself. LOL! I can see where if you could use them safely and control the temps they could be a powerful, powerful tool in solar heat - so, I am now ever more interested to know how yours turns out - if you find a way to pull that off let me know.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Fri Feb 10, 2012 1:35 pm

What if, the focal point was on the water and not the tank? The design I found would have to be modified....too high maintenance to keep up the water level?

Or what if the tank was sitting on some rocks, and the focal point was on the rocks? Area round the tank would have to be clear of anything flammable....and a suitable barrier between rocks and frame...
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Pedro wyoming » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:01 pm

Lostfalls wrote:...I just read up those lenses and scared the living daylights out of myself. LOL! I can see where if you could use them safely and control the temps they could be a powerful, powerful tool in solar heat - so, I am now ever more interested to know how yours turns out - if you find a way to pull that off let me know.


Yeh...that is the trick make it work without overdoing it...If you only knew my track record... :cursing: Tim Taylor was my hero...WAS...

I will post the success AND the failures as they occur. This is gonna be a very busy year at the farm.

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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Carborendum » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:35 pm

As long as you've got loose snow around, you don't *need* to water. But they'll like it better if you do. But they will eat snow. And clinical tests show that it doesn't seem to adversely affect their health -- including pregnant mothers.

Since it takes more of their body energy to melt the snow in their mouths and tummies, you'll need to feed them more grain or a whole bunch more hay to keep their body temps up.

I need to re-emphasize "loose" snow. If you have a lot of freeze / thaw the snow will harden to the point that the livestock can't effectively eat the snow. Go hit this harder snow with a shovel and try to give them enough loose stuff.

How much snow? Loose snow will be around 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of a comparable volume of water. But in cold weather, they tend to drink less as well. Think about the amount of water they normally drink in the warmer fall or spring months. Double this volume for the amount of snow.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Lostfalls » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:18 pm

Hey guys - if anyone is still keeping tabs on this post. I found this today while skimming through backwoods home magazine. It's a WOOD POWERED STOCK TANK HEATER. Loosely based on a rocket stove type design.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/blogs/Jack ... nk-heater/

http://www.backwoodshome.com/blogs/Jack ... -off-grid/

I like it!

BTW - it does help know that they can eat snow. Usually the ASPCA and all those groups are hitting us over the head with "animals can't eat enough snow to survive..." So I didn't even look into it.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby TempestT-37 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:34 am

Very cool. I can see myself building something like that when I get to the mountains.
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Re: How to keep livestock water from freezing?

Postby Carborendum » Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:21 pm

If you try this, you'll have to tell us about how you got it to work, how much wood, how difficult it was, and side-effects.

The solar water tank is probably your best bet. If you have the thing insulated on three sides and the bottom, then paint with black matte paint, the sun will keep it warm enough. On days it is not sunny, there should be snow for them to eat.

About matte paint: Often times, matte paint will not adhere to galvanizing very well. If you add about 5% to 10% vinegar, it adds just enough acidity to work itself into the zinc, improving adhesion. This will decrease the quality of the paint itself, so you'll need to add another undiluted layer of paint on top.

The link you provided shows a guy using gloss paint. For the purpose of absorbing radiant energy, probably not the best idea. But it is minor enough that if you can get gloss paint for cheaper than flat paint, it would probably be OK.
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