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Creating A Siphon To Prevent Frozen Water Tanks and Lines

 
Chris Stelzer
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Yesterday we finally had some snow. We got about 3-4 inches, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees during the day, and dipping down into the teens at night. We have 240 head of cattle. They need to have water, even in these temps. So, you might be asking yourself how to go about keeping the water tank and lines from freezing. Do you head down to the local farm supply store and buy heated tanks, lines and valves? Sure, if you have the luxury to do so. However, most of us do not.

There is a very simple solution to this problem. Create a siphon! Here are the tools you will need to create a siphon.

Heavy object like a hammer
Twine/rope/string/wire
Garden Hose
Step-In Post or two
Two people is best, but it can be done with one

To create a freeze-proof siphon here are the steps you will need to follow.

Tie the hammer or other heavy object to one end of the hose
Run the garden hose downhill, away from the tank and somewhere (along a fence line) the cattle cannot mess with it
Place the hose on the ground to start
Fill a bucket with water from the tank
Have someone else plug the downhill end of the hose with their finger
Pour water into the hose and have your helper release their finger after a few seconds and watch the water flow
When your helper hollers at you, submerge the garden hose and hammer in the bottom of the tank
The water should be flowing out of the hose
You can adjust the flow of the water coming out of the hose by raising or lowering it and securing it to a step in post
I like to look for a flow that is equivalent to a man peeing
You are done!

Now you can sleep well at night knowing that your water system will not freeze. On particularly cold days/nights you can leave the end of the siphon hose on the ground to assure that nothing will freeze. On nights that aren’t going to be that cold or windy, you can use a siphon that has a lower flow, by raising the height of the hose off the ground as I mentioned above. Additionally, you need to make sure that your cattle/livestock cannot access the hoses. This can easily be achieved with a strand of electrified polywire that splits the tank in two halves. You would then place the siphon and hose on the side of the tank where the animals cannot mess with it.

I hope you all can enjoy this low-cost simple solution.

What are some other strategies that you all have used to prevent your water system from freezing? I'd love to hear about something that doesn't waste as much water.
Thanks,
Chris
 
C.J. Murray
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
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What is the source of the water filling your tank?
 
Greg Hickey
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Chris,

Interesting idea. I have a question though. Although we don't get a lot of hard freezes where I am, I have been on early morning patrol breaking up water tanks with an axe for stock on the occasional hard freeze. Running water is harder to freeze than still water; but will drawing water off the bottom of the tank create enough current to break the surface tension of the top water? Streams can crust over even hard freeze while the stream underneath flows normally; but still requires the surface ice to be broken for the stock.

The kids must love the luge course the hose creates downhill of the tank! Open a round bale for a landing zone, grab some cardboard, and they could stay entertained all day.
 
Chris Stelzer
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C.J. Murray wrote:What is the source of the water filling your tank?


It's a standard hydrant that you would see on a farm.

 
Chris Stelzer
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Greg Hickey wrote:Chris,

Interesting idea. I have a question though. Although we don't get a lot of hard freezes where I am, I have been on early morning patrol breaking up water tanks with an axe for stock on the occasional hard freeze. Running water is harder to freeze than still water; but will drawing water off the bottom of the tank create enough current to break the surface tension of the top water? Streams can crust over even hard freeze while the stream underneath flows normally; but still requires the surface ice to be broken for the stock.

The kids must love the luge course the hose creates downhill of the tank! Open a round bale for a landing zone, grab some cardboard, and they could stay entertained all day.


Good question Greg. In my experience, we've had temps down into the teens, and this method prevented a layer of ice forming on the top of the tank. The farmer I'm interning with has told me that it will only do that when you get really low temps, say -30F. I can't give you a number as to when that might happen. But so far this winter, so good. Also, you might consider running a longer hose that is away from where your livestock have access. For example, we run our siphon on the other side of the paddock that the cows are currently in.

Hoep this helps,

Chris
 
C.J. Murray
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
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Chris,
I have a thought or two but could use additional information. Can you post a photo of the water tank and where it is situated?
 
Chris Stelzer
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C.J. Murray wrote:Chris,
I have a thought or two but could use additional information. Can you post a photo of the water tank and where it is situated?


Hey C.J. These are the best pictures I have right now. Let me know if you'd like others and I'll try to get them for you.
photo-2.JPG
[Thumbnail for photo-2.JPG]
photo-1.JPG
[Thumbnail for photo-1.JPG]
 
C.J. Murray
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
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Great idea for raising and lowering the end of the siphon. Hahahahahaha. Simple and affordable. I think you could put a valve on the end and accomplish the same thing IF it did not plug up.

It seems to me that the siphon is helping the tank to not freeze only because of it allowing more water, which is warmer, to enter the tank from the hydrant. The water entering may also create a little movement of the surface also. The sides of the tank being exposed are allowing heat to escape the tank. Since the tank is effectively split between paddocks a moveable insulation of some sort could be implemented on one side. This could be a very simple item as you don’t seem to need the protection for long periods or for extremely low temperatures. Maybe as simple as bags of leaves hung on the unused side of the tank in UV resistant bags. Something simple moved from side to side as cows are moved into the other paddock.

A board which hangs on the trough under the electric fence could separate the surface of the water and floating empty plastic bottles could be placed on the unused side as insulation. Alternatively the dividing board could extend into the water level and the unused side covered completely. There may even be retrofit covers available which have the floaty balls which animals must push down in order to get to the water. Floating items on the cows side could also be used if you identify something the cows won’t destroy.

For any of these measures to be worth it will depend on how badly you’d like to not have a portion of the field waterlogged and how bad you want to conserve the water and the cost associated with it.
 
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