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Watering livestock in winter.

Some tips to make it easier

Frozen buckets of water can be a headache, especially if you have to haul water any distance. Livestock care is never as easy in cold weather as it is during the summer, but here are some ideas to make it less work.

Water piped to the barn is a blessing in any season. A hose from the house will work in summer,but when it freezes, you'll need a pipe buried below frost depth, and a frost-proof spigot. With such plumbing, if you have enough animals in one class to justify a stock tank and electric heater (electricity in the barn is also a blessing) winter chores will be less time-consuming and your stock will have plenty of water.

Teach a drinking routine

If you provide water in buckets, teach your animals a drinking routine. Bring them warm water twice a day, making sure every animal has a chance to drink all it wants. Then take the buckets away. No more denting and smashing buckets by banging giant ice cubes out of them, and your chores will be finished sooner too. (Rubber buckets are marginally easier to deal with in freezing weather, and they stand up better, but they're still an aggravation. Plastic ones, of course, are impossible in this situation.)

Heaters are available for poultry waterers. Even a light bulb under a waterer can prevent freezing, if you take extreme care to ensure that the bulb and electrical components won't get wet.

An alternative might be to bring a bucket of hot water to the henhouse at chore time to thaw out the waterer and provide a new supply. This doesn't work well in extreme cold because of the shape and constrictions of chicken waterers. It's somewhat more satisfactory with some rabbit waterers that are wider at the top than at the bottom.

Another alternative is to have spare watering utensils. Bring one with fresh water and take the frozen one to a warm place to thaw out. This is especially handy with rabbits, especially using ball-point waterers.

Although not solutions in really cold weather, there are a few tricks you can use that will help on days when the mercury hovers around the freezing point. One is to be sure the water container is in the warmest possible location, and in the sun. Don't give the animals way more than they will drink: it's easier to deal with a little ice, than a lot. Make sure they have plenty to drink in the morning and evening, but remove or empty the containers at night.

Don't worry about providing heated water, thinking it will take longer to freeze. It won't.

Chores in winter are seldom as pleasant as they are in summer, but with a little thought and perhaps creativity, you can see to it that your animals have enough to drink without spending all of your time on the bucket brigade.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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