2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2, Page #16[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Freeze-Proof Cattle Waterers Made From Big Fuel Tanks
"This is a great way to have a large volume of water available in an energy friendly way," he says. "Because of the volume of water and the fact that the tanks are sunk 6 ft. deep in the ground, the warmer ground temperatures under the waterers keeps the water fom freezing. A small sump pump also circulates the water from top to bottom."
For $500, McCoy bought a 17-ft. long, 5,000-gal. underground fuel tank (reclaimed from a service station), and cut it in half. Each resulting 3/16-in. steel walled tank is 8 ft., 6 in. tall and 8 ft. in dia..
He wrapped the outside of each tank with 3-in. Styrofoam insulation and covered that with 3/8-in. thick rubber conveyor belting to protect it from both the cattle and underground rodents. Stainless steel banding holds everything on.
For each tank, (in different locations on his farm) he used a backhoe to dig a 6-ft. deep, 12 by 12-ft. sq. hole on virgin ground. At the bottom, he poured a 5 1/2-in. thick, 8-ft. sq. cement base pad.
McCoy lowered the tanks into the recessed ground with a picker truck he hired, and back-filled around them. They sit about 30 in. above ground.
McCoy then welded a spoked frame from 2 by 3-in. angle iron to support a plywood cover for the tank. He also made a protective lip for around the outside edge of the tank from 4 by 4-in. angle iron.
The tank lid has six 14-in. dia. drinker holes cut around its circumference, and a solid section that lifts up for access to the pump and float. He says that two cows can drink comfortably from each hole.
In each drinker hole, he installed a re-bar safety cage "basket" to protect calves from getting knocked into the holes.
McCoy allowed a year after installing the tank for the ground to settle, and then poured a 6-in. thick, 8-ft. concrete pad around the tank. Next to the tank, he placed a 1-ft. deep, 6-in. thick, octagonal concrete step to prevent loitering animals from backing up to the tank and defecating.
He tried placing 14-in. dia. rubber feed tubs, with several 3/8-in. holes drilled in the sides (a half-inch from bottom) in the drinker holes for the purpose of catching debris. Although this did work to keep the water cleaner, McCoy concluded that the cows could push them out of position more than he liked. Instead, he plans to use 20-in. tractor tubes for more flexibility to collect trash.
His 3/4-in. water line fills the tank at 10 to 12 gal. per min. He figures he has a 350-gal. reserve of water to easily handle a large influx of thirsty cows.
McCoy's system handles his 300 cow-herd with ease, and in winter, the water remains open at temperatures as cold as 0_ F (with no wind factor). In more frigid conditions, he hooks up a sump pump to circulate the water. Even if an inch of ice has already formed, he just breaks it, and in no time at all, the circulating water thaws it. He says it can get 40_ below F and no ice will form when the sump pump is running.
McCoy says the tank-troughs cost him $1,200 each to build, plus $1,500 each for concrete and labor. He saves about $250 in energy costs per winter per tank, because they replace three conventional 100-head bowls.
"The electricity for the pump is supplied through a center pole, which I'd like to use as a light pole in the future. I'd also like to insulate the lids. My goal is to make these tanks so efficient that they will remain open down to 20_ below F without needing water circulation," he says. "I'd like to make four more of these tanks in various pastures in the future."
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