Cold weather can present challenges for watering cattle, especially in areas with no electricity. Jim Anderson, Rimbey, Alberta, Canada, solved this problem more than 15 years ago by creating an innovative water system where cattle pump water for themselves from shallow wells, ponds or pressure systems — water that never freezes, even at 40 degrees F below zero.
Anderson’s innovation is a piston pump, like the old-fashioned hand pump where you work the handle up and down to lift water. “We modified this so cattle could push a lever with their nose. This operates the piston pump by raising and lowering the piston in the cylinder, the same as a handle did,” he explains.
“Like the old-fashioned hand pump, we have a 3-inch cylinder down inside the well. This is how we made this pump frost-free; we capture enough geothermal heat from the ground, and contain that heat all the way up to the surface, to keep the water in the pipe from freezing,” he says.
The waterer is a small enclosed basin on the top end of a vertical culvert, with a lever at the back of the basin that cattle push. The water pipe that attaches to the lever is down inside the culvert. The culvert sticks up about 2 feet above the ground and goes down to whatever depth is required to make use of groundwater, or water from the bottom of a pond or dugout.
Water from a pond flows through a horizontal underground pipe to the bottom of the culvert, where it then rises to the same level as the pond surface — but it won’t freeze. A buried collection tank from a spring also works. A regular well can be used, as long as the water level comes up to within 50 feet (and preferably 30 feet or less) from the surface.
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