September 8, 2021 / Uncategorized / Jamie Tiralla

Featured Best Management Practice: Watering Facilities

One of the most valuable Best Management Practices (BMP) that I think a landowner can install is a watering facility.

On the conservation side, it allows a landowner to provide water for their livestock without accessing a stream, thus reducing nutrients and sediment from entering the Bay. On the management side, it allows a landowner to visually monitor livestock as stream corridors are usually wooded and some have steep slopes leading to the stream. There’s no need to worry about what is in the water upstream. You know the water is clean and without contaminants and you can monitor the animal(s) intake of water.

There are many types of troughs or waterers you can install. They fall in two general categories: waterers fed by natural springs and pressure fed waterers.

Spring Fed Waterers
These concrete troughs utilize natural springs to supply water. They are practically damage proof and provide a constant source of water with little to no risk of freezing. Heavy use areas should be incorporated into the design to minimize erosion. The heavy use area should extend a minimum of six feet beyond the trough. Large troughs like these can be placed on the fence line to provide water for two pastures.

Waterers Fed By Natural Springs

These waterers do not require any electricity to pump or heat the water. The constant flow of water keeps it from freezing. Gravity provides the flow.

They are usually a round concrete trough with a 12-inch hole in the middle of the floor. Perforated pipes in a bed of stone are used to collect the subsurface water and the underground line becomes a solid pipe that runs downhill to the concrete trough. The pipe comes up through the center of the trough. Another pipeline is installed in the center and provides an outlet for water not used.

Generally, the water leaving the trough flows into a nearby stream. If the underground water supply is available all year, the waterer will have a constant flow.

The drawback of this system is in a drought. During dry times the water table may drop below where the perforated underground collection pipe was installed, causing the waterer to go dry. The advantage to this system is a constant source of fresh, cool clean water without the use of electricity or pressure tank and it does not freeze.

Spring fed waterers are ideal for equine, cattle, sheep and goats. The trough itself can be ordered in different sizes and installed at any height to accommodate any size livestock.

Pressure Fed Waterer
The “JUG” is a pressure waterer and provides water on demand. At first you allow the concave area to fill with water to get the animals used to drinking out of it. Over time you reduce the level of water and eventually no water is exposed and the animal has to draw it out. This design shows a stone dust Heavy Use Area Protection. This waterer serves two paddock areas.

Pressure Fed Waterers

There are several different designs that can be purchased depending on the type of livestock and the needs of the landowner. They all rely on a pressure tank to supply the water. The set up requires a well or other source of water, electricity and a pressure tank that is in a location that will not allow it to freeze.

A pipeline is run underground from the pressure tank to the waterer. Since they only flow on demand there is a greater chance they will freeze. Different companies have different methods to prevent the water from freezing in the trough. Some require an electric heater; others rely on foam insulation and the constant use of the trough. Most have some method of limiting the water’s exposure to the cold air.

The advantage to these waterers is a guaranteed source of clean fresh water. The amount of water used is only what the livestock needs. Maintenance is minimum. The disadvantages are, if the electricity goes out the trough will not refill. Some designs require constant use to keep from freezing which could be a problem with small herds. They may be more expensive to install if you do not already have a well and pressure tank available.

Pressure Fed Waterer with Heavy Use Areas
On the left, the pressure fed waterer has movable floating spheres to keep the water from being exposed. The livestock learn to push the spheres out of the way to access the water. Note the concrete heavy Use Area around the trough. On the right, a Nelson stainless steel waterer. It has a pressure plate that senses when to add water and utilizes an electric heater to keep the water from freezing in the winter. The stainless steel bowl simply lifts out for cleaning. The black cloth is the geotextile and it is ready to receive stone dust or wood chips. Nelson waterers are too small to be split by a fence, so you need one per pasture.

Heavy Use Area Protection

Watering Facilities become high traffic areas, so we always install Heavy Use Area Protection around them. Since we know it will be difficult to maintain grass around the trough, we remove eight inches of soil a minimum of six from all around the trough and either, install geotextile with eight inches of stone dust or place three to four inches of stone and pour a concrete around the trough. With the concrete we make sure it is a little rough and not perfectly smooth, so the animals have traction. The concrete is always sloped away from the trough.

Designing for Watering Facilities

Watering Facilities can stand alone or be placed in series to supply multiple pastures with water. One Watering Facility can supply two pastures with water if it is placed on the fence line.

Next Step

If you think you may be interested in installing a Watering Facility, please give us a call. Cost share is available through both the Maryland Department of Agriculture cost share program and through Natural Resource Conservation programs.