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Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems


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Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems

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Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems

  1. 1. Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Vicki Lynne and Using a livestock watering system in the winter is problematic but possible. Freezing temperatures poseMike Morris, NCAT two main challenges: winterizing a summer use-only system and freeze-proofing a system intendedAgriculture Specialists for winter use.Published 2002Revised April 2010By Lee Rinehart, NCAT Winterizing aAgriculture Specialist summer use-only system© NCAT T he first part of winterizing a summer use-only system is turning off the system at the pump controller.Contents For a system with a submersible pump,Winterizing asummer use-only water in the supply pipe in the well mustsystem ................................ 1 have a way to drain below the freeze level.Winter use of a One method to ensure drainage is to drilllivestock water a 1/16-inch hole in the supply pipe 7 to 10system ............................... 1 feet below ground. This will allow water toSuggestions for drain out of the pipe above that level whenkeeping wateropen .................................... 1 the pump is not running. The system will Solar-powered livestock watering system atReferences ........................ 3 lose a small amount of water during pump- Sauerbier Ranch near Sheridan, Mont. Photo byFurther resources ........... 3 ing. Another method is to install a frost-free Mike Morris, NCAT. hydrant on top of the well. At the end of the pumping season, and long before freez- including using heat from the earth or sun, ing weather occurs, turn off the pump and insulating components or continuously close the hydrant. Any aboveground piping circulating water. must be drained. When you install the system, you will need For a system with a surface pump, any to reduce the chances of freeze-up of compo- aboveground piping that will be exposed nents that may be in contact with water. You to freezing temperatures must be com- will need to bury piping below the frost line. pletely drained. The pump and suction line If the system includes a well, install a pitless must also be completely drained. The pump adapter. Any aboveground sections of piping should be covered. should be insulated and arranged to drain at night or when it’s cloudy and water is not being pumped. Frost-free hydrants may not Winter use of a work in this situation. If the handle is left livestock water system up and the solar-pumped water stops run-ATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service If you plan to use a watering system when ning, because of lack of sunlight at night or( is managed because it’s cloudy, the hydrant will the National Center for Appro- pipes and water troughs can freeze, you willpriate Technology (NCAT) and is need to plan ahead. If you use a solar-pow-funded under a grant from theUnited States Department of ered system, keep in mind the solar panels Suggestions for keeping stop generating power at night, when tem-Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Visit the peratures are lowest. Also, solar electric tech- water openNCAT Web site ( for nology is good for pumping water but not There are several ways to keep wateringmore information onour sustainable agri- very good for electric resistance heating. You tanks open and storage tanks from freez-culture projects. have several options to prevent freeze-up, ing. Each livestock watering situation is
  2. 2. different, so you will need to create a bottom under the tank. You can circu- solution for your site, weather and terrain. late water from the culvert into the tank Below are some ideas: with a separate low-wattage solar-pow- 1. Pump water into a large enclosed storage ered pump. This system requires a battery tank at a higher elevation. You should bank to allow for night use. You will need insulate the tank in some way, bury it to put the batteries in a non-freezing area, or mound dirt around it. If the tank perhaps on a platform above the water is exposed, paint it black to absorb the level in the culvert. sun’s heat during the day. From the stor- 6. You can use a special in-tank propane age tank, run a buried line to supply heater to keep water from freezing. the watering tanks by gravity and con- trol this flow with a float valve. You may 7. Innovative producers have experimented want to use a thermostatically controlled with building solar-heated air or water float valve that opens when temperatures collectors on their tanks. A system such drop below a certain point. You can posi- as this uses the sun’s heat to keep the tank tion some of these valves to direct water from freezing. around the outside of the watering tank 8. Another way to use propane is to run aRelated ATTRA to keep water open for stock. You can alsopublications quarter-inch copper tube from the regu- pump water into the storage tank during lator into the water tank and crack thePaddock Design, the day so that it will continuously trickle propane valve open slightly, just enoughFencing, and into the watering tank at night and on to allow small bubbles to flow from theWater Systems for cloudy days. The watering tank will need tube. The bubbling action will keep waterControlled Grazing an overflow drain-field. open at the spot it emerges from the tube.Solar-Powered 2. If a storage tank is not an option, you can A propane tank will last over a month ifLivestock use a solar pumping system to fill the water- used in this manner. The livestock watererWatering Systems ing tank directly during the day. Make can be placed in a location where the pro-Renewable Energy a small hole that allows the tank to drain pane can be easily dispersed by the windOpportunities slowly at night to keep water moving. to prevent an accumulation of propaneon the Farm 3. You can use large heavy equipment tires gas. A propane bubbler can be constructed as watering tanks. These help keep water for about $90 from materials acquired at open since they are black and absorb a hardware store. If you have an old pro- heat from the sun. They are also flexible pane bottle, you can have it filled and save enough not to crack if freezing occurs. about half of the cost. These tires are often free and are very Materials list tough and can take abuse from animals. Item: Approximate cost: 4. Much of the heat loss from a watering 20-pound $60 to $90, new tank occurs at the surface of the water. propone tank You can reduce this heat loss consider- ably by placing an insulated cover over a Regulator $10 to $15 large part of the surface area of the tank. Adaptor fittings (2) $5 Provide openings around the edge where Copper tubing, length cut as animals can drink. You can also insulate ¼ inch necessary the sides of watering tanks with insula- tion material, sawdust or wood chips. Par- Adaptor fittings tially burying a watering tank, or berm- These fittings go on each side of the regu- ing it with earth, takes advantage of the lator and connect the bottle valve to the ground’s warmth to prevent freezing. regulator and the regulator to the tubing. 5. Another way to make use of underground The fitting from the bottle valve to the warmth is to install a culvert with a sealed adaptor will have a large, reverse-threadPage 2 ATTRA Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems
  3. 3. male gas fitting on one side (to match from trampling and damaging the bottle, the internal threads on the bottle valve) regulator or tubing. and a tattered pipe thread fitting on the other side. The pipe thread will be a male Energy-free livestock waterers thread, ¼ or ⅜ inches in nominal pipe A variation on water systems is to use an size. The adaptor fitting that connects insulated livestock waterer in the manner the regulator to the tubing will be a ¼- suggested by the government of Alberta’s or ⅜-inch male pipe thread on one side, Agriculture and Food program. This pro- which corresponds to the female threads gram has tested low-input, energy-free live- in the regulator. The regulator will have stock water delivery and heating technology an arrow pointing in the direction of flow that relies on geothermal heat to keep water stamped onto the regulator body. On the open during cold weather, as low as -15 other side of the fitting will be a ¼- or ⅜- degrees Fahrenheit (AFMRC, 1994). For a inch compression fitting to connect to the report on the construction, use and mainte- tubing (depending on the size of tubing nance of the energy-free system, see the pub- you choose). lication Energy Free Water Fountains from It is recommended that you construct a Alberta Agriculture and Food at www1. protective device to cover the tank and$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/ shield the tubing, and to keep livestock eng3133/$file/706.pdf?OpenElement.ReferencesAlberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta Build it Solar. Build it Solar, a Renewable Energy SiteFarm Machinery Research Centre (AFMRC). 1994. for Do-it-yourselfers. Free Water Fountains. WaterHeating/water_heating.htm#Animals$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/eng3133 Web site includes resources for heating water forFurther resources animals, including solar-heated tanks.Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. 1991.Field Study of Electrically Heated and Energy Free MiraFount Livestock Water SystemsAutomated Livestock Water Fountains.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/eng3134 Manufacturer of energy-free livestock watering systems.Alberta Farm Machinery Research Center (AFMRC).1994. Energy Free Water Fountains. Murdoch’s Ranch & Home$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/ www.murdochs.comeng3133/$file/706.pdf?OpenElement Source of MiraFount Livestock Water ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems By Vicki Lynne and Mike Morris, NCAT Agriculture Specialists Published 2002 Revised 2010 by Lee Rinehart, NCAT Agriculture Specialist ©NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: or IP215 Slot 208 Version 042010Page 4 ATTRA