How to Keep Livestock Water From Freezing

Freezing Water Livestock

The winter months can be hard on livestock. Frozen ground, sometimes covered with snow or ice prevents them from roaming and grazing, which is what they are meant to do. In addition, their water can end up freezing. This problem must be addressed, as livestock need to have access to clean water at all times. Take a look at the following ways to prevent livestock water from freezing in the winter.

1. Use Rubber Buckets

Using rubber buckets won’t prevent the water from freezing, but it will make it a lot easier to break the ice if it does freeze, and the process will be a lot quieter so it won’t frighten your livestock. It takes water longer to freeze in rubber than in metal because metal gets colder faster. 

Rubber Water Bucket for Livestock

2. Metal Water Trough with an Electric Water Heater

This option works well, but it may not be effective if you lose power. You need to make sure that you keep the temperature at the right levels. You don’t want the water to be too hot, but you are trying to prevent it from freezing. You can have your water heater powered by propane instead of electricity; that way it will continue to work in the event of a power outage.

3. Insulate Your Buckets with Old Rubber Tires

You can actually take five gallon water buckets and fit them nicely inside of old tires. The tires are made of rubber, which will help insulate the buckets and prevent the water from freezing too quickly.

4. Use a Tank De-Icer

You can buy tank de-icers and heaters ​as they will not be as hard on your electric bill as an electric water heater. They are designed to prevent the water from freezing, not to warm the water. 

Sheep Water Bucket Deicer

5. Use Compost to Provide Insulation for the Water Trough

You can actually take compost and manure and set the water trough on top of it, then build it up approximately twelve inches around the trough. The warmth that comes from the compost and manure will help insulate the water trough and prevent it from freezing.

6. Run a Hose from Indoors

If you have a hose that can run from your house (outdoor hoses will freeze if the water is freezing), you can run it and refill the buckets more often. It takes a certain amount of time for a bucket of water to freeze, and if you refill the bucket before it freezes, the livestock will always have fresh water.

Hose to Rubber Water Bucket

7. Place Troughs Near Each Other and Use Insulation

If you have a number of troughs out in a large pasture, you can move them close together and insulate them with compost, rubber, or whatever insulating items you may have. This will help prevent them from freezing.

8. Cover Part of the Water Surface

You can use plywood to cover part of the water trough’s surface. The livestock will still be able to drink, but if you cover part of it with the plywood and then place snow or another substance on top, it will help to insulate the water inside and prevent it from freezing.

​9. Buy Bigger Troughs

The higher the volume of the water in your trough, the longer it will take to freeze. This means that by increasing the volume, you can prevent your water from freezing. Buy the largest trough that will work for your situation, and it will help the water stay unfrozen for longer.

Big Water Trough

10. Bury Part of Your Trough Underground

You will need to plan ahead for this one because you don’t want to try to dig up frozen ground, but if you dig a shallow hole under your trough, it will have natural insulation and will take longer to freeze when the temperatures dip down.

11. Remove Ice from Water Sources

You shouldn’t break up any ice and leave it there. It is cold, and it will only cause the rest of the water to freeze. When you break up the ice, you need to remove it from the water to keep it from freezing for a longer time.

12. Make Sure That the Trough Has Direct Sunlight

Sunlight on Water Trough

If your trough sits in the shade under a tree, it will freeze more quickly than if it is in the sun’s path. Make sure that your troughs are directly exposed to the sun. In the winter, it is too cold for your livestock to suffer from standing in the sun. Just make sure that you move the trough back to the shade before summer arrives. 

13. Float a Ball in the Trough

When you put a ball or some other floating item in the water, it moves around and bobs up and down from the wind or the livestock drinking. This keeps the water moving, which prevents it from freezing. 

Floating Ball for Livestock Water

14. Heated Buckets

Heated buckets work, but they require electricity, and they can be dangerous if you aren’t careful of the cords. You will want to unplug them when your horse or other animal isn’t in the stall.

Final Say

There are many different tips and tricks for preventing your livestock water from freezing. Many of them require that you plan ahead. This can be tricky because a good location for a 150 gallon trough in the winter might be all wrong in the summer. However, it is extremely hard to prevent water that is stored under a tree or in the shade in general from freezing. Even in the direct sunlight, you will have to work to keep your water from freezing if the temperatures drop down too far.

Some of these methods will vary depending on whether your livestock live in a stable or live outside all the time. You will still need to check the water and occasionally break up any ice that forms and remove it. If you can buy a large rubber water trough, it will be worth the investment. You can use electric water heaters, but you must be careful, and remember that they do require electricity, so you will be out of luck if the power goes out.

  • Updated February 18, 2020