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Tips to avoid winter freezing provided

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Although temperatures this winter have remained mild, Wyoming residents are never completely safe from a cold winter chill and frozen water resources.

 In the November-December edition of the Acreage Living Newsletter, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Field Agricultural Engineer Shawn Shouse discusses a few options and considerations for protecting water sources from freezing.

“Every year, people across the U.S. face freezing conditions in the winter, and those conditions put water supply for people, pets and livestock at risk,” Shouse states, noting freezing temperatures may also cause damage to equipment and water infrastructure. “A little preparation can provide significant protection.” 

Adding heat

            One way to keep water lines, pipes and water tanks from freezing is to add heat using one of three common approaches, according to Shouse. These include adding a heating device, insulating to conserve heat or adding heat by bringing in warm water.

            “The most basic advice is to empty any and all water lines that can be emptied including hoses, sprinkler lines and pasture water lines,” Shouse says. “Insulation can be added to protect outside walls, and interior insulation can be removed to allow heat from a heated building to reach pipes.” 

            In unheated spaces, Shouse recommends investing in a small electric heater, a heat lamp or strips of electrical resistance heating tape.

            “For livestock water tanks, individuals can install trough, tank and bucket heaters where electricity is available for around $20 to $50 a unit,” he notes. “If electricity is not available, liquid propane gas stock tank heaters are available for a steeper cost of roughly $600.” 

Other ways to keep water thawed

            In some instances, especially on large ranching operations where using heating equipment isn’t always practical, there are many other ways producers can keep water sources from freezing in cold winter temperatures. 

            One of the easiest ways to help keep water from freezing is strategic placement of tanks and troughs. Placing multiple tanks, toughs or buckets close together and filling spaces with hay, straw, dirt, manure or rubber tires will help keep heat in.  Setting water sources out of the elements or near windbreaks will also help keep them from freezing.

            Another way is to partially cover the surface of a water trough or tank using c-clamps to secure plywood or polystyrene foam insulation. This provides some insulation from heat loss by limiting surface area to the elements, while still allowing stock to drink. 

            Producers may also consider utilizing the power of nature’s insulation by partially burying their stock tanks, troughs or water buckets. If the ground is already frozen, they may try to stack a few bales of straw, waste hay or manure around the sides of the tank as other means of insulation. 

            Additionally, producers may consider switching out plastic buckets and tin water tanks with rubber tubs or investing in automatic water circulatory systems, which run on battery or solar power.

            Whether producers water their stock with tanks, troughs, buckets or natural water resources, they will need to break ice at some point. When producers break ice, they should remember to remove ice chunks from the source to extend the amount of time before it freezes over again.   

            Hannah Bugas is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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