It has been cold here, folks – real cold. Old Man Winter showed up about mid-December, unpacked his bags, and settled in for what has been a rather lengthy stay. As a result, we have ice. And more specifically, ice that forms thick sheets over water sources closing them off to bovine consumption. So in order to keep our cattle happy, healthy and hydrated, we spend a portion of every day checking water and quite a little time chopping ice to open it.
Checking water is a big deal throughout the year. In the hot summer months, cattle drink significantly more water than during the winter chill. Thus, the focus of the summer water checks is on pumping enough water to meet the increased demand. But winter time water checks – they are a whole different ballgame with their own unique set of rules.
The following are the Do’s and Don’ts of checking water in the wintertime:
- Do make sure that the cattle have not rubbed on solar water pump or the hose compromising the apex.
- Don’t let a compromised apex go unattended, doing so is a good way to end up with a frozen-solid hose.
- Do use an ax, or some other sturdy tool, to fracture any ice near the outside of the tank that.
- Don’t chop ice near the center of the tank. The cattle will likely not be able to reach the opening and it is dangerous to stand on the ice while chopping the center.
- Do use a shovel, or another appropriate tool, to relocate dislodged chunks of ice (or tiny icebergs, as I like to refer to them) to the sheet of ice that remains in the center of the tank.
- Don’t toss the dislodged ice chunks on the ground around the outside of the tank. The tiny icebergs can be sharp making it difficult and dangerous for the cattle to reach the tank. Once the ice begins to melt, the danger and difficulty only increase with the slick conditions.
- Do free ice from the overflow – the tube that drains the excess water into a second tank or away from the tank into a holding pond.
- Don’t let the overflow remain plugged with ice. A plugged overflow results in water spilling over the sides of the tank, creating a slick and dangerous surface that the cattle are then forced to walk on when they come in for a drink.
As with any other aspect of raising beef, there is a method to the water-checking, ice-chopping madness. Keeping our cattle happy, healthy and hydrated during the winter months can be a bit of a challenge, especially when it is as cold as it has been, but it is a good workout… And just like the water, bodies in motion are less likely to freeze.