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Ground Level Cattle Waterers Accessible To Wildlife
George Work ranches near Paso Robles, California. Most of his pastures don’t have any natural water so it must be piped in for his cattle. About a dozen years ago he decided that the wildlife on the ranch also needed better access to water. “The problem was that we put water for cattle 30 in. above ground level where nothing but a large adult animal can reach it,” he says.
  “We had a quail hunt club and were trying to figure out how to increase quail numbers. We realized the best way is to have more water. A carpenter in our quail club built a ground-level form and we poured concrete. He made a wooden box over the top to protect the float, but wild pigs were coming into the area and I was afraid they might tear it apart. I put cattle panels around the waterer so pigs couldn’t get through but birds and rabbits could.
  “We were beginning to hunt pigs by then and it didn’t make sense to fence them out of the water, because they were bringing in more money for the hunts than quail.
  “We finally came up with a design so all animals could drink. It’s narrow on top, only 8 in. wide, with a V bottom so a hoofed animal won’t put a foot in it because it would be uncomfortable. It’s about a foot deep, and easy to clean using a shovel we made with a pointed spade.” He installed a drain for cleaning, but has never used the drain because it’s so easy to clean with the shovel, in about 3 swipes – swishing the water out the other end.
  The ends of the troughs, even though they are only 6 to 8 in. wide across the top, are sloped so that if small animals fall in they can swim to the end and crawl out. “We made grooves in the surface, to make it easier for them. After observing our first two in use, we noticed birds using these to bathe. So we flattened the slopes a little more so they are not so steep. The slope drops about an inch for every 3 inches in length. It’s ideal for birds to bathe in.
  “I designed a device that goes onto the float rod, similar to the old toilets. The rod goes perpendicular down through a hole in this little adaptor. You can slip the rod up and down and adjust it – within 1/16th of an inch. You could move it from 3 or 4 in. to 1/16th in. The normal adjustment on the float mechanisms has a little click to help hold it.”
  He has a friend who installed low troughs and left the old 30-in. high troughs in place. “He watched his cows as they came to water, and said that 90 percent of the time, unless there was a big crowd, they chose to drink at the new low troughs with water at ground level,” says Work.

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #1