"Cow Balls" Keep Stock Tanks From Freezing

Tired of chopping ice out of stock tanks? Ron Baker, Alva, Oklahoma, has an idea that might help. He calls his invention "Cow Balls."

These 4-in. dia. black plastic balls float on the water in the tank. The sun heats them up so that they insulate water in the tank to prevent ice from forming except in extreme cold weather. If ice does form, it doesn't take much sunshine to rewarm and loosen the balls.

"Thirsty cows looking for water can usually break through by pushing on the balls with their noses," says Baker.

You have to use enough of Cow Balls to cover the tank. "When people order them, we get the dimensions of the tank where they'll use them," he says. "We provide enough balls to cover the surface."

Baker says Cow Balls are meant to remain on the tank year-round. In the summer, the balls reduce evaporation, helping to conserve water. They also help keep algae growth down by limiting the amount of sunlight that enters the water.

Baker admits he hasn't tested Cow Balls in far northern states where winter is longer and colder. "I think they would work well in heated tanks, though," he says. He suggests the layer of insulation they provide might actually help reduce heater fuel use.

Baker says the balls should last indefinitely, since they're made of heavy plastic and treated to be ultraviolet resistant. You just dump the balls into the tank and then set the water level so less than half the ball floats above the tank rim. "If more than half the ball is above the rim, the cows can knock them out when they drink or the wind can actually blow them out," he says. He also recommends that overflow holes be cut in the tanks, so heavy rains or a malfunctioning flow valve can't float them off the top.