The final part of our revisit to tire waterers will look at how we installed tire waterers at Eden Shale and the different updates we have made.
At Eden Shale, we have designed our tire waterers to be accessed by at least more than one pasture. The video below takes a look at the different ways we use our tire waterers.
One of the things Dr. Higgins mentions in the video is the use of shade balls in the tire waterers. The shade balls are softball size plastic balls that are half filled with water so that they float about half submerged on the surface of the water. 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.
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.
In the winter, the shade balls help to provide additional insulation to the water. The black color absorbs some solar energy. thus slightly increasing their temperature relatives to their surroundings. They also reduce the interaction of the surface of the water with cold air. However. we have not been able to completely reduce freezing with this product.
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 is a picture of the same tire tank with a small amount of ice around the shade balls.
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.
This winter, we will be testing out a lid for the tire waterer to see if it helps to prevent the water from freezing. We fabricated the lid here in our shop based on the size of our tire waterer. The lid (shown below) will cover about half of the tank.
It is designed to reduce the surface area of the tire waterer and provide insulation to address issues with freezing. The smaller hatch on top of the lid allows for access to the float for the valve assembly, in case it needs to be accessed while in use. The eye bolts are there so we can attach a chain for moving the lid with a tractor.
Again, we have yet to test this piece in the winter, but will be sure to update everyone on our results.
Be sure to check under the "Producer Resources" tab for more information on tire waterers and more practices at Eden Shale Farm.