Due to the current extreme cold that we have been experiencing in Kentucky for the past several weeks I have received a lot of questions as to how the tire water tanks are performing.
First of all, YES, the tire water tanks do freeze. If someone tells you the tires do not freeze they are probably trying to sell you a tire water tank. Having said that, the tires do freeze less that a traditional concrete or plastic water tank. The rubber is about 6-8 inches thick and acts as an insulator. The tires also hold a large volume of water which takes longer to cool down and therefore is slower to form ice.
You may also recall that we have used a product at the farm called shade balls. These are softball size plastic balls that are half filled with water so that they float about half submerged on the surface of the water. We use the shade balls to shade the water in the summer to keep the water cooler and prevent algae growth in the tanks. They work extremely well for this purpose. The entire surface of the tire is covered with shade balls and the cows simply push them down and out of the way to get a drink of water.
The first winter we experimented with using the shade balls during cold weather. We ended up with mixed reviews. The shade balls did help keep the tanks from freezing a little bit. They cut down on the surface area of the exposed water and served as protection from the wind. They seemed to help prevent freezing with temperatures getting down into the low 20's. If the tank did form a little bit of ice the shade balls helped to thaw the ice if the sun came out at all. The black balls absorbed the solar radiation and the tanks thawed out before the temps rose 32 degrees. Below are pictures of the same tire tank with a small amount of ice around the shade balls.
If you look close around each shade ball you can see it is beginning to thaw the ice. The black balls are absorbing the sunlight and transferring that solar energy to the ice to cause it to begin thawing.
As the temperature drops below 20 degrees the shade balls begin to get in the way. As the ice gets thicker the balls are not enough to thaw the ice anymore. At that point we have to chop the ice from the tire, and the shade balls are in the way to do so. So we now remove the shade balls from the tanks once temperatures start to dip into the teens.
In the extreme cold weather that we have had recently the tires are freezing each day. We chop the ice off to give the cattle access to water, but by the next day the ice has to be removed again. The picture below is of the tire waterer at the calving barn. This tank has 13 head of mature cows using it. The night before the temperature was down to 0 and the night before that was recorded at -6. As you can see the tank had about two inches of ice on it.
The next tank is at the bull barn and has 30 replacement heifers on it. This tank had approximately the same amount of ice as the first one at roughly 2 inches.
The spring that we developed last summer has been working well. It is set up so that the water from the spring flows continually into the tire tank and then out the overflow at the top and back to the creek. The continual flow of this tire tank has kept it from freezing completely. We have not removed the ice from this tank all winter. As you can see in the pictures the ice is of varying thicknesses and is still open where the inlet flow is disturbing the surface of the water and around the outlet pipe where water is moving. Although the opening is small, it is still enough that a cow can get a drink of water.
This tank shows that it doesn't take much of a disturbance to keep the ice from forming on the surface. We are currently working with Dr. Higgins at University of Kentucky to demonstrate options for keeping the tire tanks thawed during the winter. I will keep the blog updated with what works and what doesn't as we progress forward. For now, stay safe out there as you tend to your livestock during this harsh time of year.
On September 13th we hosted a weaning workshop at ESF. This was the second year that we have held a workshop focusing on the proper way to wean calves. There were 35 producers in attendance despite it being a wet and rainy day.
To start the workshop producers were split into three groups and rotated through different stations which covered different parts of the weaning process. The first station was with Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler discussing how to develop a proper feed ration for calves. Participants got to develop the feeding protocol that would be fed to the calves for the next 30 days until the weaning trial was over. The three different rations used included a 2-way blend, 3-way blend, and a 5 days of medicated stress feed followed by 25 days on a custom ration. All rations were approximately 12-13% protein.
The second station was conducted by Tim Dietrich, who works on beef cattle marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Tim discussed what buyers are looking for with weaned calves and what may get discounted when it gets graded at the sale. Tim has experience grading calves for the CPH sales and shared some good information with the group.
The third station was chute side processing calves. Dr. Blue and Austin Sexten, both with Elanco, helped us work the calves. Dr. Blue talked about chute safety and common hazards to look for before you begin processing the cattle.
Each group got a chance to work 10 head of steers through the chute. The calves were weighed, vaccinated, and dewormed. The steers had already been implanted so we did not implant anything the day of the workshop. Having the producers broken up into groups allowed everyone the opportunity to practice each step in the process.
Even though we did not implant the steer calves that day, we still wanted to give the producers the opportunity to perform the procedure. To be able to do this, Austin Sexten brought some ears that had been harvested from a processing facility and we screwed them to a 2x4 so that folks could practice implaning with them. The idea worked really well, as people who would otherwise be timid to try implanting on a live animal for fear of doing it wrong, hurting the animal, or the challenge of implanting a moving target, those people jumped right in an everyone practiced implanting on the ears. A big thank you to Austin for the idea and for helping folks learn how to properly implant cattle.
After everyone had been through all the rotations, we came back together to listen to Dr. Steve Higgins talk about facility considerations when weaning cattle. Barns, shade, and proper access to water were all discussed.
After going back to the barn to eat lunch, Austin, Dr. Blue, Dr. Lehmkuhler, and Dr. Kenny Burdine all spoke about topics ranging from vaccination protocols, to developing feed rations, and marketing weaned calves.
After the weaning workshop the three different groups of steers were kept in the barn and fed one of the three rations along with free choice hay. The heifers were all sorted off and fed the 3-way ration outside, and at a lower rate than the steers. This was done for 30 days and then we reweighed everything. Dr. Lehmkuhler put together the following results:
A few quick things to point out:
1. We did not treat any sick calves. This is due to the fact that these were all home raised calves that had been properly vaccinated and thus were exposed to the lowest amount of stress during weaning.
2. The average daily gains were all about the same for the steers, however with cost of gain for the 3-way feed was the cheapest at $0.34 cents per lb.
3. It did make us money to background the calves this year. By weaning them, vaccinating & deworming, and feeding them for 30 days we were able to capture an additional $86 per head. So after factoring in all the cost associated with weaning them, we made an additional $2,580 on 30 head of steers by keeping them an additional 30 days versus selling them the day they were weaned.
Hello, my name is Dan Miller and I work for the Kentucky Beef Network. KBN took over operation of the Eden Shale Farm in April of 2013. We are using the 961 acre farm as a demonstration and learning center for beef cattle producers. This blog serves as a place to document daily farm activity and host discussions about the demonstrations being implemented. I hope you find this information useful and that you come visit us at Eden Shale Farm.