Written by: Zarah Strong
Homesteaders know how important it is for livestock to have access to fresh, clean water at all times, but in some areas of the world, winter makes this a much more difficult task. I can remember many winter days as a young girl when I would break ice out of buckets, carefully carry fresh water to the animals, and sometimes, spill it on myself in the process. Fortunately, we now have much better ways of dealing with freezing water.
In a previous article, we learned of several ways to keep your livestock’s water thawed. Electric heaters and deicers, heated buckets, water circulators, and automatic waterers are all very popular methods, but they require some sort of electric source.
If your water trough is out of reach from electricity, and you don’t have a reliable natural water source, there are a few methods you can try to eliminate or minimize the amount that your livestock’s water freezes.
Before technology was an option, some people began using manure to keep their water troughs from freezing, and no, I’m not suggesting that you fill your water tanks with manure. Most people are aware of the danger of manure pile fires, so if you have no other option or want to try a more natural approach, you can pile fresh manure around your bucket or trough.
Once you’ve piled the manure around the water source, you should cover the entire thing with a black tarp or plastic and cut out a hole for the animals to drink from the trough. The heat from the manure trapped under the plastic will help keep your water from freezing.
Animals love molasses, and it can often be used to encourage them to drink from an unfamiliar water source. It also can serve the purpose of preventing water troughs from freezing. People have been using this method long before electricity could be accessed so easily. All it takes is a very simple mixture of warm water and molasses being poured into the water trough. Molasses do not freeze as easily as water, so it slows down the freezing process. If you are in an area where the temperatures drop quite drastically, this method may not be as effective. However, more often, it will leave the water slushy but not frozen, so it is still drinkable.
3. Saline solution jugs
Another great and very simple option for keeping your livestock’s water from freezing is floating milk jugs in the trough. The milk jugs should be filled with a saline solution, which can either be purchased or just as easily made. The salt keeps the water from freezing in the jug, and as it floats around, it keeps the water moving enough to prevent it from freezing partially if not completely. This method likely will still require you to clear out the surrounding ice, but it should be enough to make sure your animals can drink between waterings. It is important to note that the salt should only go in the jug and not in the drinking water!
While these options are not perfect, and certainly are not as reliable as most of the electric options, they can make a big difference for livestock owners who don’t have access to electricity. You hopefully will find that they will make your life easier this winter and prevent you from having to chip away at those pesky, frozen buckets and troughs.