Free Flowing Winter Water

Published on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 10:08am

Free Flowing Winter Water.

 By Maura Keller.

 As the days become shorter and temperatures begin to drop, dairy producers turn their attention to winter preparation for their dairy operations. In colder climates, when winter temperatures plummet and water freezes in all forms, one area of concern is providing proper water systems to livestock.

As Jamie Koepke of Hoskins Livestock Waterers in Hoskins, NE explained, there are key considerations that farmers and ranchers need to make when evaluating the best winter water systems for their needs.

“The key factors to consider are   the type of winter conditions, good wind protection, and the number of animals per yard,” Koepke says. “And, they need to evaluate if a continuous flow waterer would be the best fit. In addition, the availability of appropriate electricity and water supply is necessary.”

Hoskins Mfg. Co, the manufacturer of Hoskins Livestock Waterers, offers a variety of sizes and types of electric waterers as well as continuous flow models. The company’s electric waterers are paired with the proper size heater along with an R-Tech insulated frame. The continuous flow models requires no heat but does require an underground sewage line.

Determining the correct size of a winter watering system depends on the number of head featured in a dairy operation. Hoskins Mfg. offers stainless steel systems that can accommodate up to 500 animals.

Brad McCormick, sales manager at Johnson Concrete Cattle Waterers, suggests that when selecting a winter water system, producers need to be mindful of how many head they will be watering, as well as the size of the livestock.

“Water intake can also increase in the winter due to energy needs,” McCormick says. “Not only do livestock need more feed in extreme cold, they also need more water.”

Another important factor is water temperature. “The ideal temperature for cattle is between 40 and 65 degrees. Without water, cattle will not eat properly,” McCormick says.

Johnson Concrete Waterers offers a complete line of electric and constant flow tanks in varying sizes for winter use. The company’s waterers are designed to stand up to the harshest weather to give producers trouble-free service in the winter. They also supply all types of repair and replacement waterer parts that have reached end of life and need to be addressed.  

The size of the operation also needs to be carefully considered. As McCormick says, the number of pens or pastures and the number of animals that will be in each pen or pasture are the main factors in designing a winter system. “If cattle numbers are going to vary, a lot of producers will use two smaller waterers than one large one,” McCormick says. “When the numbers are down in the pen, they can shut one waterer completely off.”

Mistakes To Avoid
The common mistakes Koepke and the team at Hoskins Mfg. finds farmers and ranchers make is not having the proper size of waterer for the number of livestock in the pen. In addition, they often do not have the proper size of water lines as well as electrical lines to accommodate the number of head.

“We encourage producers to properly install the waterer with big enough water and power lines,” Koepke says. “When it is installed incorrectly the producer may end up having to redo the water or power lines, which in the end, cost more money and time.”

The most common mistakes McCormick sees producers make include farmers not having a backup if the electricity goes off. This is especially concerning in areas that are prone to blizzard conditions. In addition, McCormick sees some producers not checking tanks every day, which can also be very problematic.

“Water needs to be checked daily in most situations in the winter,” McCormick says. “You are dealing with water and cold temperatures. Things are going to break from time to time.”

Also always check with local officials for state and local backflow prevention rules and regulations prior to connecting to a water supply lines.

Embracing Innovations
Winter water systems have certainly evolved in recent years to ensure the safety and well-being of livestock, as well as the safety of farmers and ranchers using these systems.  

As Koepke explains, the main objective is to keep your animals watered with fresh and ice free water.

“Our waterers are designed to do that. We use ground heat along with our electric heaters and our Energy Star certified R-Tech insulation,” Koepke says. “Make sure you do your research and talk to fellow producers before purchasing a watering system. Sometimes it might cost more upfront but it will pay off in the future if you buy quality products.”

Cobett Company in Lorimor, IA offers a unique heat-free water systems that does not freeze up the valve or plumbing as long as the tub is filled with water. Cobett places the water tub inside the ground heat chamber, not just above it. This means the entire tub of water is constantly and directly warmed or cooled by the surrounding underground temperatures. Although the Cobett system lacks a cover (that could accidentally freeze shut or open, a small  amount f ice may form on the water surface but can easily be eliminated with a Cobett ice chipper or a ball peen hammer, just once daily.

“There are several new products on the market today that are temperature sensitive and work very well,” McCormick says. “But always keep in mind you are dealing with cold temperatures and water, so nothing is going to be fool proof.”