Preventing ice in watering troughs
Radio interview source: Greg Lardy, Chair, Department of Animal Science, North Dakota State University
Livestock always need access to fresh water during the winter. Chewing on ice doesn't count, but there are numerous ways to keep their watering trough open.
Greg Lardy is the animal science department head at North Dakota State University. He says water heaters work well when the tank is surrounded by some kind of insulation such as dirt, styrofoam, or wooden materials. If you live where it gets really cold, Lardy recommends minimizing the area of water that's exposed to the freezing temperatures.
"What they're going to do is cover most of that tank with some sort of insulating material whether that's wood timbers or planks, and then cover that up with dirt or some other insulation so that only maybe 10% of the actual surface of the tank is actually exposed," says Lardy. "But, you're insulating all the rest of the surface of the water."
Another option is to warm the water that goes into the tank.
"In our part of the world, most of our folks are going to have their water lines buried below the frost line, and then the water pipe itself would come up within the tank," says Lardy. "In some cases you may be able to use some kind of circulation of the water, a continuous pumping or something like that, to move the water enough to keep it where it wouldn't freeze over if the temperatures didn't get too cold."
In more temperate areas of the country, producers can put a basketball or soccer ball in the troughs. As animals drink or the wind blows, the ball floats around, preventing the ice from building up as fast. Some folks even put koi fish in the tank to keep the water moving.
The animals themselves might be able to keep the water open. The more that drink from the same tank, the less likely it is that ice will have a chance to form.
Ohio State University lists ideas for winter water systems
More tips for keeping watering trough ice open and how to recognize if your animals are getting dehydrated
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