How Can I Keep the Livestock Watering System from Freezing in Winter?

Tips for keeping vital water supplies to farm livestock in winter from the US National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
calendar icon 11 February 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

Livestock producers have two options when deciding how to water their livestock during the cold months: to winterise a summer-use system or freeze-proof the current system and use it through the winter. Either way, planning ahead is key to avoiding costly labour, parts and repairs.

If you choose to winterise a system, the first thing you must do to turn off the system at the pump controller. For a system with a submersible pump, water in the well's supply pipe must have a way to drain below the freeze level. At the end of the pumping season, and long before freezing weather occurs, turn off the pump and close the hydrant. Any above-ground piping must be drained.

For a system with a surface pump, any above-ground piping that will be exposed to freezing temperatures must be completely drained. The pump and suction line must also be completely drained. The pump should be covered.

If you plan to use a watering system when pipes and water troughs can freeze, you will need to plan ahead. If you use a solar-powered system, keep in mind the solar panels stop generating power at night, when temperatures are lowest. Also, solar electric technology is good for pumping water but not very good for electric resistance heating. You have several options to prevent freeze-up, including using heat from the ground (geothermal) or sun, insulating components or continuously circulating water.

For more information, see the ATTRA publication, Freeze Protection for Livestock Watering Systems.

Another option is to use an insulated livestock waterer in the manner suggested by the government of Alberta's Agriculture and Food program. This programme has tested low-input, energy-free livestock water delivery and heating technology that relies on geothermal heat to keep water open during cold weather (as low as minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit).

To learn more about the construction, use, and maintenance of the energy-free system, see the publication, Energy Free Water Fountains.

February 2014

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