Providing the animals with clean fresh water was one of the most time consuming and laborious tasks that winter. When the outside spickets or hoses froze, I carried water in buckets from the house. Imagine lugging and juggling the weight of the water buckets across ice or through a foot of snow. Imagine a person who can not walk and chew gum at the same time carrying those buckets on ice. Not exactly a pretty picture ehh?
We have a pond though we prefer not to use it as a water source for the animals. That year I did try to use the pond, trudging out daily to break the ice to expose the water. That ended the day I could not tell where the ground stopped and the pond began. Jabbing a short pole of rebarb in to break what I thought was the ice at the edge of the pond, I found I was actually standing about 2 foot out from the pond bank. Sliding into the murky muddy mess, winter boots filling with frigid water, I could not free my feet from the grasp of the pond.
This was my first experience with mud so deep it sucked the boots right off of your feet. I won’t bore you with the remaining details. I did make it back to the house, not too worse for wear and thankfully before the on set of hypothermia, though madder than a wet hen and with a severe case of potty mouth.
That experience is one that could have easily ended my choice of living this lifestyle, actually giving up on owning livestock. I also know now why many farms prefer to not winter over a large number of animals. What animals are meant to go to butcher, be sold, culled or moved off the farm are done so before winter.
The better half says one of his duties in life is to make my life on the farm easier (I so adore him for this). He also worries about my safety while he is gone. Wishing to make life easier and to avoid having another ear full of potty mouth brought about his installing tank heaters or de-icers that winter.
-Water Tank Heaters and Buckets -
The tank heaters we use come in two types, those that float, those that sink. Shown below are what we use. We hope to replace all floating with the sinking in the next year (sinking use less electric). We also find the sinking type is best for our inquisitive, sometime destructive, definitely chew on everything goats. The heated buckets are handy for dogs, individual stalls or kidding pens where you water one or two animals.
Sinker - Premium Utility De-icer
500 watts 120 v of power that can be used in any application of water that doesn't exceed 50 gal. Thermostatically controlled & cast aluminum design. Safe for plastic & metal tanks. De-icer comes on at 35 degrees and goes off at 45 degrees. 1 year warranty.
1500 watts of power, a safety shut-off-system that automatically shuts the de-icer off before the heating element becomes hot enough to ignite a fire or destroy itself, especially if the de-icer is removed or thrown from the tank. The 6-ft. cord has a plastic cord guard. 120v. UL listed. Measures 8-1/4" diameter x 2-3/4" high. 1 year warranty.
Heated Flat Back Bucket
120 watts 120 v. 5-gal capacity. Thermostatically controlled, comes on at 35 degrees & off at 60 degrees. The heater is completely hidden within the walls of the plastic bucket. Heavy, duty power cord can be hidden away in a bottom compartment for better seasonal use. 1 year warranty.
We have outside electrical outlets by and in our milk room, well house and the shop. Exterior heavy-duty grade extension cords are ran through PVC pipes and temporarily laid out to the water troughs. The extension cords are then plugged into an outlet closest to the water trough. Well-laa, no frozen water troughs.
Making life easier getting the water to the troughs involved buying a large household outdoor 30 something gallon plastic trash can. These can be found pretty cheaply at any local discount store. Rolling up garden hoses to be stored in the trash can and placing trash can inside back door in mud room or on back porch. The hoses do not freeze, any water left in the hoses drains into the container, not onto the floor. It is a bit of work rolling the hoses up after filling waters for the day, though much, much easier than carrying buckets.
We do have frost free water spickets located in two central areas of the farmstead. I carry the hoses to the spickets, attach, take open end to troughs, fill, when finished filling, disconnect, drag hoses back to the house, roll the 100 or so feet of hose into trashcan. Well-laa, done deal!