Big Watering Tank Never Freezes

For nearly 20 years, Wade Berlier hasn't had to worry about his water troughs freezing up. The 20,000-gal. tank that fed his water troughs created its own microclimate and kept the water open in a 30-ft. trough at its base.

"It was an old oil tank, and the cost to haul it was more than what I paid for the tank," recalls Berlier, who installed it on his Garden City, Kan., ranch in the early 1990's. "At that time we were running a cow herd of 500 to 700 head through the winter and needed good water. Since water needs are less in the winter, the 30-ft. trough was enough."

Berlier installed the tank as part of an intensive grazing system with the tank at the center of a set of nine 320-acre paddocks. Other grazing areas have other types of water systems, including submersible pumps and traditional round water tanks. The big tank is his preferred system.

He then laid concrete for a pad and installed a trough that ran the length of the tank. The reservoir tank was fed by a submersible pump that ran off a float inside the big tank. A second smaller tank buried next to the reservoir held a float mechanism that fed the trough.

"It was 10 ft. underground, so it never froze up," says Berlier. "I could access it through a manhole, so I didn't have to worry about snakes and such."

As his operation grew, he added more and more cattle, eventually reaching 2,000 head of yearlings in the nine paddocks each summer. As the numbers increased, Berlier recognized he needed more trough space. He added two, 30-ft. steel troughs, feeding them off the big tank and using 6-in. pipes to ensure they didn't run dry.

"We set them level with the first trough, so they could use the same float system," says Berlier. "That gave us 150 ft. of head space and was enough for the larger herd."

Berlier recently sold the ranch, but says he has never seen anything like his watering system before or since. "That 20,000 gal. created a huge heat sink," he says. "With it insulated on three sides and open to the South, weather was never much of a problem."