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Off grid, how to keep livestock water from freezing?

Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
First off, I did do a search for this but nothing turned up. I apologize if I missed it.

Does anybody have to deal with this? Where I live it can get to well below zero in the winter. I currently use electric heaters but when I move to my new place next spring, I'll be on solar and solar electric is not going to be enough. An electric heater draws a lot of watts. I know I can go out a few times a day and break up the ice or add hot water or something but like most people I have a full time job so that is not ideal.

There are some interesting ideas over at builditsolar.com but last time I check they used only passive solar design. Paint a galvanized tank black, put it in an insulated box that has a window and point it towards the sun. But that doesn't work when it gets too cold because it will still freeze. And I have goats as well as chickens, and the chickens will crap in any water they can find. So I have a typical metal chicken fount that I will need to keep warm in addition to the big tank.

What do people do in this situation? What did they do a hundred years ago? This is an area where I would like to be eco-friendly, but I have even thought about supporting the fount on cinderblocks and keeping a lit kerosene lantern underneath. Which is not only unsustainable but pretty scary in terms of fire hazard. I have visions of a chicken catching fire, running around in a panic and setting all the other birds aflame.

I am getting some parts together to build an evacuated tube solar heater that will circulate antifreeze through pipes that can then be coiled in the stock water tank. I got a small solar pump from Amazon (Solar DC Circulation Pump Topsflo TS5 15PV). The pump is supposed to be be able to be started with 2 watts. Well I have a 15 watt panel and hooked it up to do some testing. The last 2 days have been sorta cloudy and my quick test showed the pump spins but will not pump anything if I prime it and stick the intake into a cup of water. So that doesn't look promising. I might have to see if I can add a small reservoir tank elevated higher than the tubes and see if it will self-circulate. But I have my doubts. I ordered 10 short evacuated tubes from cleanrepublic in seattle which haven't gotten here yet, and bought $100+ worth of copper fittings and pipe today. But I don't know if it will work out.

So has anyone already tackled this freezing problem? If it helps, I will build the livestock winter shelters sepp holzer style, so maybe I could use the thermal mass of the earth somehow?
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I picked up a couple of old military immersion heaters thinking I might use them to heat a water tank in my greenhouse. I did not end up using them for that but they do burn waste oil and they do warm up a 55 gallon drum up pretty quickly. You can control the drip with a little fiddling and an insulated tank it might be something to consider.


"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
(Buckman)
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
Thanks for the reply. I think I may have seen something like that in a youtube video by engineer775?

How much and what type fuel do you burn? I guess I mean, do you burn used motor oil or something? How long do you think they would work without refueling, assuming just a little heat was needed to keep water from freezing?

Glenn

Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I burned used motor oil. I imagine they used diesel initially. A quick google search for M-67 immersion heater turned up more info than I had before and will probably help you decide if it is viable for your needs
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2504
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  22
Yeah engineer775 used in his greenhouse. They will burn ANY liquid fuel--gas, diesel, waste oil. As long as it is clean enough to not plug the needle valve. Some fuels are a little more "exciting" to light than others.

They use quite a bit of fuel, so it needs to be free or nearly so. But they are a great off-grid answer for the REALLY cold days.

I sunk a 55 gallon pocket rocket into my big stock tank using scrap iron and gravel as ballast. It worked well, but my son liked it better as a top-load cookstove because it could use the same firewood as the house. He would load it once full load and light it at the start of evening chores and it wouldn't need to be re-run until the next night unless it was REALLY cold--and that was a steel tank in a wind tunnel. A little side insulation and shelter and it would be better.

I am still searching for a 30 gallon drum-I want to put the 30 into the 55 and sand/gravel ballast between them. That will get the fire lower under the waterline and protect the barrel from the intense heat difference (it would glow translucent orange 2 inches above the waterline and be 212 at the waterline--pretty hard on barrels).

Another cheap easy solution that really works is to put a bunch of black hose/poly pipe scraps in the tank. I had a bunch of short ends of poly tube scrap that I cut into about 1 foot pieces and threw in the tank. They worked like surface solar collectors plus kept the ice from crusting over solid even when cold enough to start icing.




http://www.treebytheseafarms.com/
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
Hmm yes Robert's answer had me wondering if I could use some sort of small rocket stove to warm the water. The thing is, I could just throw a few sticks in once or twice a day and let them burn out. I can't let the water get hot, just warm enough to keep from freezing. I guess I'll have to research pocket rocket.

Has anyone built a rocket stove combined with a water heat exchanger for this purpose? I think engineer775 did just that, with a regular hot water tank.

I just don't know if I can get comfortable with an unwatched fire burning somewhere. BUT I guess I may have to.
Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8

A few other options..

Commercial versions of the insulated tank system are available with supplemental propane burner heat or air / propane bubblers. They are quite efficient. The water reservoir needs to be sized to the herd...much of the heat comes from the groundwater so the daily exchange needs to adequate to recharge the thermal battery. These systems are typically designed for pressure water. Not energy free, obviously.

Old timers using windmills or hand pumps often had snorkel style coal stoves in their water tanks. With a rocket stove and modern insulation and covers similar to the commercial system above the fuel use would be reduced.

Do you have pressure water and what is your herd size?

There are frost free watering bowls for pressure water systems. The bowl and the above frost line pipe drains down to a gravel bed. Suitable for smaller numbers of livestock. Bowl is actuated by nose pad, or motion detector (which will require some electricity).

Most nose pumps are not frost free, but at least one company makes a frost free nose pump with a drain down bowl. Nice because it's entirely livestock powered. Suitable over a shallow bore well, or a 'wet well' (vertical culvert / well set adjacent to a dugout and connected below the frost / ice line.)

Another option for a dugout / wet well system uses solar panels, battery and motion detector to pump water to bowl (with drain down) above the wet well.

Those are the options I'm aware of. If you google frost free waterer, remote livestock watering, frost free nose pump, etc you should find some good info on options.
They vary a lot in cost and complexity...you'll need to consider the size of your herd and the type of water system / supply you plan on utilizing.

Don't forget that livestock will do just fine on snow most of the winter...this will free you up to winter graze / swath graze / bale graze or move your feeding area around, which has huge benefits for building soil, managing manure, and reducing parasite load and sickness. You need a back up plan if you live in an area that gets periods of hard freezing with inadequate snow. It is possible to use a banjo pump to pump dugout water from a hole chopped in ice up to a trough, but you've got to be there every day to do it and it's a nuisance for more than a few weeks. Watering straight out of a hole in ice isn't recommended...real danger of slipping and with spring thaw you'll end up with a lot of manure / nutrient right in your water supply.
Kristaps Vinogulajs


Joined: Jun 01, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Latvia
    
    1
Just a thought- runing water is freezing slowly, installing some small pump(connected to a solar panel) into two tank system might slow down water from freezing?

We divided our barn with a straw filled wall, so now we got cold part and not so cold part of barn where we are keeping our livestock. "Cold part" will be used in spring/summer when we will have more livestock. We also hanged some old blankets on doors and attached polyethylene film on window frames.
And large animals can help to maintain room temperature above zero with their body temperature.
Goats are fine if you do not clean their pen. Poop composting generates heat. If ceiling allows(2,5-3m) you can let poop-straw-hay layer be about 1 metre high. You have to have some tiny ventilation in barn! And in spring you will have some valuable material for your garden
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
What did they do a hundred years ago?


They watered stock twice a day and only gave them what they would drink right then. They also fed feeds that had moisture in them, like pumpkins, fruits and root crops that were stored in cellars and made a mash from their grains with warm water each feeding and this gave even more moisture and a warm belly.

I currently have a fermented feed bucket in my bedroom from which I take fermented grains out to my chickens each day. They need very little water when eating this type of feed and I only put out water in case they need some but the level rarely goes down now.
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
Thanks Kari you game me a lot to think about.

My livestock will be a couple goats, a couple pigs, someday a cow and a horse, and a dozen chickens. I will have water pressure at the site.

The frost free watering bowls sound like the way to go for the non-poultry animals. I remember reading about those before and I understand how they work and I think I will go that way. I also remember being disappointed with the cost of them and the fact that they need a deep hole. I think I might try to make my own with a big pipe and some kind of linkage-activated valve at the bottom.

My biggest problem is the chickens, because as-designed, those might not work. If I had one low to the ground, would they figure out how to activate the flap? But the motion activated idea might also work... I have one of those little red self-filling bowls that I use in the summer and the birds are used to it. It hangs by a vertical water pipe with a nozzle that shuts off when the weight of the full bowl closes it. I think I will figure out something with that. I used to have one of those motion activated sprinklers to scare away deer. It used one 9 volt battery that lasted all summer and it would be perfect because it has a sensor and shutoff timer built in. If I reduced and redirected the output from that to a chicken-proof bowl with a slow drain to a screened, covered, deep gravel pit, that might just do it...

Awesome, thanks again, and Jay and Kristaps, that is something else to think about. I wrote all this before you guys posted, so I will have to go back and read.
Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8
Yes, at just under five hundred bucks the draining watering bowls are pretty steep. There might well be a way to DIY something. Probably goes without saying, but arrange the drain so you don't contaminate the well.

I did try an insulated passive solar tank, it works in the shoulder season but won't be enough for montana winter. As Jay says, you can just water them regularly with just what they need to avoid ice build up in a tank.

I've heard that pigs will use a nose pump readily, but not the goats.

I haven't figured out a poultry set up yet, apart from regular hand watering...if you find something please let us know!
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6675
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
A cheap trick that helps with poultry waterers is to throw about 3" of styrofoam packing peanuts in the resevoir.
As they drink, the foam stays on top of the water. When you refill it, they just float back to the top. Probably wouldn't do much good in Montana, but they sure work in milder climates.

Melba Corbett


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 161
Location: North Carolina
I've seen livestock tanks with a built in cabinet around them, painted black and insulation stuffed between the side walls and the water tank. Helps keep it from freezing. Also, remember to insulate from the ground.

Long ago, people went out and broke the ice for the stock to drink. This works if it hasn't frozen solid all the way through.

Melba


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Chris Griffin


Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 53
Location: Eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mnts. Virginia
If you have the cash, you might want to try solar Evacuated Tube Collectors. Here is a link to an online retailer where you can get an idea of what they are capable of:

http://www.siliconsolar.com/20-evacuated-tube-collector-p-16145.html

This is a tempting idea. Nothing is worse than breaking ice 2 or 3 times a day. Goats also really like warm water in the winter and all of our does get warm molasses water when they kid. Somebody gets to carry the warm water from the house to the stable. If this works like they say it would save my already worn out bones from even more wear and tear.


Live long, Live free and Love every minute!
Ron Donally


Joined: Jan 07, 2013
Posts: 3
Location: minnnesota
I grew up on a dairy farm(poor in the 50-60s} in Minnesota (damn cold)
our simple answer was a milk can loaded with ballast to sink mostly to floor of (a floating fire pit if tank was too full)
an outdoor tank about 6ft by 3 by 3 deep filled to 1/2 -3/4
start a small fire in the can once a day ....the end.
it worked 95% of the time to have a water for heard of 40 plus cows
tank was filled to 3/4 by a hose to the barn manually about once every 3 days...

the cows did have a chance to drink while being milked
so nobody was going to go without
for too long...

it really didn't seem to take much to keep enough water open
around the can and drinkable for the cows and horses we had.
Ron Donally


Joined: Jan 07, 2013
Posts: 3
Location: minnnesota
update thinking
a small floating(semi floating) rocket heater in a big tank
should do a great job I would bet.
Joe Braxton


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 258
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
    
    9
Folks around here use a heat well. Auger a hole as deep as possible in the ground and place the tank above. The ground will heat the air in the hole and it will rise up to heat the tank. Insulation around the tank helps, just don't insulate the bottom. I'm not sure how cold a climate this will work in by itself, but might be part of the solution.
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
Guys see that's what I'm looking for. I like to see the old-time techniques and alternative ideas.

Chris Griffin: solar Evacuated Tube Collectors

I'm experimenting with those right now. I bought 10 (shorter) tubes on ebay. They are about 20" long. As part of a test, I put one tube in the sun on a below-freezing day, stuck the temperature probe to my digital multimeter down the tube and plugged the tube. An hour later the meter said the temperature in the tube was an amazing 240 degrees. I'm still messing with making the copper heat tubes and manifold, but got stuck on the pump. I got a "solar" powered pump and hooked it up to a 15 watt panel I have and I couldn't get it to move water. I sort of got disheartened and also had work and Christmas was going on and I let it go, but I need to get back to seeing what I can do with that. Even if I can't make it work for the stock tank, I need to figure it out for heating my hot water.


Ron Donally: a milk can loaded with ballast to sink mostly to floor of (a floating fire pit if tank was too full) an outdoor tank about 6ft by 3 by 3 deep filled to 1/2 -3/4 start a small fire in the can once a day ...

That is so damn simple that it has to work. Hell, throw a couple short tree limbs in there at feeding time, light it and there you go. I like the KISS rule and I am going to do this for sure. One thing I have in abundance is firewood.

Joe Braxton: Auger a hole as deep as possible in the ground and place the tank above...

Hmm that's worth experimenting with. My climate is much colder, but I think when I get set up at the new place next winter I will auger a hole, put my temperature probe in there and put an insulated tank on top and check the temperature of the air in the hole. If I could figure out how to light a fire in the hole that might work too.

Thanks for the help guys.





Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
Kristaps Vinogulajs wrote:Just a thought- runing water is freezing slowly, installing some small pump(connected to a solar panel) into two tank system might slow down water from freezing?

We divided our barn with a straw filled wall, so now we got cold part and not so cold part of barn where we are keeping our livestock. "Cold part" will be used in spring/summer when we will have more livestock. We also hanged some old blankets on doors and attached polyethylene film on window frames.
And large animals can help to maintain room temperature above zero with their body temperature.
Goats are fine if you do not clean their pen. Poop composting generates heat. If ceiling allows(2,5-3m) you can let poop-straw-hay layer be about 1 metre high. You have to have some tiny ventilation in barn! And in spring you will have some valuable material for your garden


This is worth looking into as well, thanks.
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
John Polk wrote:A cheap trick that helps with poultry waterers is to throw about 3" of styrofoam packing peanuts in the resevoir.
As they drink, the foam stays on top of the water. When you refill it, they just float back to the top. Probably wouldn't do much good in Montana, but they sure work in milder climates.



Ha yep here I think I would end up with a styrofoam Popsicle.
r john


Joined: Dec 21, 2012
Posts: 122
We have 4 foot diameter plastic water tanks and use a pool pump to circulate water round the outer edge creating a whirlpool which does not freeze. Well not in UK climate
Joe Braxton


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 258
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
    
    9
....... If I could figure out how to light a fire in the hole that might work too.........

If you really want a fire under the tank, look up a "dakota fire hole", especially if you have some slope. Just use a steel tank!

Edit- the quote function doesn't seem to be working.
Glenn Underhill


Joined: Dec 07, 2012
Posts: 95
Location: NW Montana
    
    2
[quote=Joe Braxton]If you really want a fire under the tank, look up a "dakota fire hole", especially if you have some slope.[/quote]

I can make a hill when I dig my pond. I'll look that up, thanks!
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1002
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
for things like cows and other "big" livestock, perhaps building a hill up to the trough with the trough being deep and sunken into the ground at the top of the hill and surrounded with thermophillic compost
perhaps dark stones and such as well as black poly piping if you have extras, something to capture sun and turn it to heat that releases into the water
that coupled with a can/window passive solar heater MIGHT do it
you could go for a subterranean heating and cooling system and that really should work all year, i dont see a time when it wouln't... but it might be prohibitive in initial costs, perhaps some thinner pvc thats ran from downhill a few yards, snaked through the trough and then has a taller "chimney-like" exhaust so as to help create a draft from the bottom to the top, pulling air in through the warm earth and helping to keep the water from freezing, thinner pvc, like an inch or so in diameter wouldnt be as cost prohibitive as an all out "official" subterranean heating and cooling system but it may not be as effective either, of course when combined with a few other ideas, it might do the trick
now for chickens thats a little harder imo, because they usually require smaller amounts of water and that smaller amount is harder to insulate, i suppose one obvious step to HELP is to paint any water containers black to absorb heat i nthe winter... but im not sure that would solve it... maybe you could just make an extremely insulated water bucket that drips into a lower resevoir from which they drink, but where water can exit, cold can likely enter, and this could either be time and material intensive or expensive and prohibiting in that manner
moving water in with the chickens instead of leaving it outside could also help but may not completely do the trick

these are just kinda spitballed ideas on zero electricity water heating and may not be what you need, but perhaps they'll spark an idea or help you out in some way


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Balint Bartuszek


Joined: Dec 23, 2012
Posts: 56
Location: Hungary
Sorry for answering without reading all comments first, but have you considered making a larger water store for this purpose. More water hold more heat. If you put a barel like a meter deep underground, that would both act as a heat mass and as a collector of soil heat. (?) If you put a small pump (really small solar or perhaps a vertical axis wind turbine powered one) to circulate the water between the trough and the drum, should make it work. You may want to be on the safe side, so you could circulate the barrels water through a heat exchanging short copper pipe, which you submerse in the drinking water. This way you can keep the drinking water side clean.
Depending on weather, you may need to fill the trough with warm water, but is should stay liquid far longer.
This can be combined with some solar collection for best results, but that is going to complicate stuff.


A compost heater may also be an option.
laura sharpe


Joined: Nov 17, 2012
Posts: 244
    
    2
[quote=Ron Donally]I grew up on a dairy farm(poor in the 50-60s} in Minnesota (damn cold)
our simple answer was a milk can loaded with ballast to sink mostly to floor of (a floating fire pit if tank was too full)
an outdoor tank about 6ft by 3 by 3 deep filled to 1/2 -3/4
start a small fire in the can once a day ....the end.
it worked 95% of the time to have a water for heard of 40 plus cows
tank was filled to 3/4 by a hose to the barn manually about once every 3 days...

the cows did have a chance to drink while being milked
so nobody was going to go without
for too long...

it really didn't seem to take much to keep enough water open
around the can and drinkable for the cows and horses we had.[/quote]

what would you burn in this can? The ballast i suspect would hold the heat for longer periods of time.
Stu Holaway


Joined: Feb 12, 2013
Posts: 1
Our company has developed a heated livestock water heater using propane gas. You may check it out at http://www.horsingaroundagain.com/. We have a variety of sizes. You can get an idea of cost on ebay at http://www.ebay.com/itm/140912576183?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649 or you may email me at stu@millstreammarketing.com. Not trying to "push" our products, but it is a very workable solution.
Ben Plummer
volunteer

Joined: Nov 15, 2012
Posts: 344
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
    
  20
Jackie Clay-Atkinson wrote an article on the subject.

Edits due to a foggy morning brain.


"Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain
David Livingston
volunteer

Joined: Apr 24, 2013
Posts: 1048
Location: Anjou ,France
    
  31
In the North Pennines , England.it was quite Common at one time to have a two story house
Animals live downstairs people live upstairs. In which case heat from animals helps heat the humans , humans protect animals from wolves And scots.
When very cold water from upstairs for the animals.
Also animals act as guards make noise when wolves or scots appear

David


Living in Anjou , France
http://www.permies.com/t/80/31583/projects/Permie-Pennies-France#330873
 
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