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How to Keep Cattle Water Troughs from Freezing

Last Updated: 22.04.24


As many of you may already know, keeping water from freezing in a cattle trough is not such an easy thing to do, especially if you live in an area with particularly low temperatures during the cold season. Moreover, sometimes having expensive equipment or warmed spaces that you can use is not possible or might involve costs that cannot be sustained.

For those of you who need to get creative when it comes to this issue, the good news is that other people have had the same questions and found various ways in which to get the job done without spending a fortune on additional equipment.

Of course, there are also more professional solutions that you can try, depending on the budget you want to invest in this, and on how many nights with freezing temperatures your cattle have to deal with throughout an entire year. In the following lines, we’ll go into details regarding the solutions we found researching this topic.


Insulated holders

One such solution would be using a little useful product known as an insulated plastic bucket holder. These smart units can be fastened to a wall if needed, and feature an opening into which you can place a 5-gallon plastic bucket. While it’s true these containers cannot hold extremely large quantities of water, they are handy for everyday use.

The insulation will get the job done by creating an extra layer between the bucket and the exterior temperatures, and some of these units come with integrated buckets as well, so that you can use them right away.

Based on the same principle, you can create your own insulated system by using foam. The way you do this is actually very easy, since all you need to do is to get two containers of different sizes and add a thick layer of foam between them. The only problem in this case is that the entire item might be rather difficult to handle.

According to some cattle owners who have already tried this approach, the solution can work very well but not during those days and nights when the temperatures go below 15ºF. If that’s often the case in your area, then you might need to find more technical solutions, which brings us to the next part.



Electric heaters

Some of those who have already dealt with the issue of frozen cattle troughs have successfully used electric heaters. One such alternative would be to get a fish-tank heater and place it at the bottom of the livestock tank. Given its construction and initial destination, you don’t need to worry that it might not be able to face rough conditions.

One thing to be aware of is that cattle are perfectly capable of destroying things around them, so you might want to bury any cables that go through their area underground, or at least ensure their protection by placing them inside metal elements and having them somehow anchored.


Keep the water moving

This might seem like a pretty obvious idea, but running water rarely freezes. Granted, that’s not always true if the temperatures are extremely low, but it’s still a good solution that you can use if nights are not that cold in your area. You can create movement in the watering system if you manage to simulate a stream.

There are several ways in which you can do this, one being by using a small pump, and another by using a simple water wheel device. If you look at the products available on the market, you’ll surely find some that fit this purpose. The most common name given to such units is “water circulators”.


An old tire and plenty of sun

This is an old trick, but it can definitely be useful, so don’t hesitate to think about giving it a try. What you need is an old tire that can fit a water bucket and rocks. It might seem pretty obvious where we’re going with this, but if you place the rocks in the tire and around the bucket, you’ve got yourself an effective system that can prevent the water from freezing.

What happens is that as you leave this little construction outside during the day, the sun warms up the rocks, while the black color of the tire will attract and absorb warmth, as well. Once the night settles in, the rocks and the tire will emanate heat maintaining the water unfrozen until morning.



Other solutions

Of course, the alternatives above are just some of the things you can do in order to prevent the water from freezing in the cattle trough. Other options can be more professional, such as specially designed troughs that already come with solutions for this matter.

The problem in this case is that if they are not properly installed, they run the risk of freezing as well. Make sure that, if you do purchase such a trough, you carefully read the instruction issued by the manufacturer in order to ensure complete effectiveness.

Moreover, the troughs also need to be used in order for the water to remain unfrozen. If several days go by during in which no cattle uses the container, chances are that it will freeze faster.


The heat tube

Frost-free water troughs normally include a heat-tube system, and they depend on underground heat in order to keep everything unfrozen. Any manufacturer will also offer minimum dimensions in terms of the length and diameter of this tube, based on average cold temperature and on the results it has to ensure.

What you need to do is to make sure that you follow these indications when installing the trough. You can even go over a bit, but never under, since you never know what extreme weather conditions might keep your cattle without a reliable water source.

Moreover, if the water systems are not in your vicinity, you need to regularly check them and make sure that everything is still working properly, especially during harsh days that can pose problems for the cattle.




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