Breaking the Ice

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County, OSU Extension

Happy Holidays readers!

With holiday gatherings a plenty right now, I thought maybe you would appreciate a suggestion for a conversation starter.

Why not break the ice about breaking the ice? Owners of livestock and pets will probably sympathize with you over a cup of hot cider by the tree.

With the cold finally settling in, keeping free flowing water available can be a challenge, especially if you do not have access to electricity or in ground waterers. Tis the season to carry a heavy blunt object with you while you check the livestock. To provide the best care possible to our livestock, water access 24/7 needs to continue to be a priority in the winter.

Below is some quality advice from Shawn Shouse – Agricultural Engineering Field Specialist for Iowa State University Extension & Outreach – about how to keep livestock water from freezing. Keep the water and conversation flowing during the holidays with these quick tips:

“If electricity is available, submersible electric trough, tank and bucket heaters are available for $20 to $50. For safe operation, you must have a power supply with a third wire ground. If electricity is not available, liquid propane gas (LPG) stock tank heaters are available for around $500. These units are basically a small propane burner encased in a hollow heavy metal pipe.  Many people have built wood-fired versions of these stock tank heaters. You can find descriptions in sustainable living magazines and blogs.

Energy-free waterers are available for new installations. These waterers channel heat up from the ground below and use lots of insulation to keep water warm. Expect to pay $450 to $700 for energy-free waterers (about $100 more than their electrically heated counterparts).

An inexpensive alternative for large stock tanks without access to electricity is the propane bubbler. This combination of supply tank, pressure regulator and tubing is anchored to the bottom of the stock tank and releases a slow stream of bubbles from a 20-pound (5 gallon) propane tank. The bubbles, which are not harmful to livestock, carry warmer water from the bottom of the tank up to the surface where they maintain a small open hole in the ice during moderate weather. While not available as a package for purchase, the parts for a bubbler cost less than $100 and it can operate for up to three months on five gallons of propane.

Adding insulation to the outside of a water tank and even to the water surface can help conserve heat and keep water available longer during cold weather. When adding insulation, be sure to protect the insulation from animal chewing, manure, and spilled water.

For small quantities of water, electrically heated buckets and water dishes are available for $30-$100 from hardware and farm supply stores. Make sure these units are properly grounded for safety.”

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