Livestock operators have many options today when it comes to watering their livestock, and for good reason. Working with livestock is not an easy job, nor is it a sure investment. One solid drop in the market and you can no longer afford to feed your animals. If sickness spreads through your herds, you may end losing tens of thousands of dollars in just a few days. Anything a livestock operator can do to ensure the health and safety of their animals should be seriously considered.
What exactly are your options? There are traditional metal water troughs, although to be fair, these are metal frames with plastic liners inside. You can also get water troughs made from poured concrete for permanent installments. Today many choose to use plastic water troughs, engineered to be UV resistant and considerably lighter than metal or concrete. Still others are being crafted from fiberglass.
With all these options how do you know which one is best for you? Well, if you are looking for a very large trough that you intend to install permanently and clean where it is installed, then concrete or metal may be a good option. They are big, bulky, and very difficult or nearly impossible to move, either intentionally or through acts of nature. But if you are like most people and need some more flexibility in your water trough, a plastic water trough is the way to go. Here are 5 reasons why.
As mentioned above, plastic water troughs are much lighter than metal and concrete water troughs. This makes them significantly easier to install. It also makes it possible to move them. Why might you need to move them? Large livestock, like cattle, can create ruts around the trough. If water spills (or rains) into these ruts, they become mud holes and the trough itself can sink into the ground if it is not set up on a concrete or other solid foundation. Having a plastic water trough means you can move it around when the ground under the trough area becomes unstable.
Plastic water troughs are made from food-grade plastic that will not leech off minerals into the water over time. Where does this leaching come from? Rainwater. Rainwater will inevitably end up in any trough you set up, and is naturally acidic, so a metal trough will leach off zinc into the water over time. This zinc can cause stomach problems with your livestock.
The only danger you run into with plastic water troughs is if they are filled with copper plumbing. Copper also causes digestive issues with livestock and can be deadly to sheep in particular. The tanks themselves though will not leach off anything into the drinking water of your animals.
If you have copper in your plumbing, you can treat your tank water to be less acidic. First of all, you can apply proper filtration at the tap, catching those intrusive minerals before they reach your animals’ drinking water. Another, simpler method is to flush the first seconds of water out of the pipes and discard it. Both of these methods will help prevent copper from leaching into your drinking water.
Fiberglass tanks are similar to plastic tanks in size and weight, but they have to be specially treated to be food-grade safe. Plastic water troughs are simply engineered that way. Metal water troughs have to have a plastic inner lining. Concrete water troughs leach lime into the water, which removes some of the acidity of rainwater so it is less likely to leach other materials. However, plastic water troughs are by far the safest and cleanest of these four types of water troughs.
If you live in an area that gets excessive amounts of heat, your water trough can run the risk of getting too hot and evaporating the water within it quickly. In addition, it will not adequately cool off your livestock if the water you are serving them is approaching boiling. Metal water troughs in particular are especially heat conductive, so they will cook your water faster than other types of water troughs.
Plastic water troughs, on the other hand, are not nearly as heat conductive. As opposed to fiberglass troughs, plastic water troughs can be engineered with special UV light resistant chemicals so they do not require spray-on treatments that need to be renewed over time.
If you are environmentally conscious then you should know that unlike the other kinds of water troughs, plastic water troughs are fully recyclable and reusable. That is especially good news if you have been through or used several in your time as a livestock operator. Nothing is wasted, and the same materials that made your former trough food-grade ready and UV light resistant (to prevent it from becoming brittle in the heat) are available in water troughs made from your former ones.
What would be the purpose of having a plastic water trough remade? Perhaps you have outgrown your small trough and are in need of a bigger one. Maybe you need a different shape… Why not recycle the old trough to help provide material for the new one?
Some areas of the world are eco-friendly and use green farming practices whenever possible. In these areas plastic water troughs are the number one choice because nothing is wasted in their recycling, reusing, and recreation processes. If you want to limit your human footprint on your environment, look no further than plastic when making your water trough purchasing decisions.
Plastic water troughs give you more options in shapes, sizes, and especially colors. Why would color matter? It may not matter as much to your livestock, but it could make a difference to your customers. When you step foot onto a farm, looking to do business, and you see charcoal black water troughs covered in mud, you expect it to simply be a farm. It meets your expectations. However, if your water troughs are bright green and color coordinated with your bright green tractors and perhaps even some bright green painted buildings, you no longer appear to be a common farmer. You look like a business. You look like a person who means business, and you will command the respect of your customers from their first impressions.
It really is those little details that make all the difference in shaping the entire image of your operation. Paint wears and tears, and you really don’t want paint getting into your water supply anyway. Plastic water troughs can be colored in their manufacturing, allowing them to visually outlast any other kind of water trough.
Likewise, plastic is simply more pliable and readily available (particularly through recycling) than the other types of water troughs. This means that you have more ability to devise custom shapes or to add in shelters for shade while your livestock are drinking. Simply put, plastic gives you more options.
Many troughs require a framework. They are not built to hold up on their own. Any straight-sided or flat-walled rectangular or “8 square tank”, if filled with water, will bow outward and will need an external frame. This frame supports the walls of the trough to prevent failure. Any trough filled over 18” needs an external frame to prevent failure. However, Cylindrical and Round tanks will not bow. Their shape is self-supporting.
They also need solid foundations to be built upon. Metal troughs really need to be placed on a concrete platform. Plastic water troughs are a little more stable and can be placed on something a little lighter, but this prevents the trough from sinking down into the mud when it is filled with water and jostled around by the livestock. Plastic water troughs will not bend or dent, but they can crack if hit hard enough. Even so, they are still able to withstand more abuse than any other type save concrete troughs.
The most important thing to remember when you are purchasing important livestock equipment such as water troughs is that you have options. Those who go with the same method that has always been done because they have not looked into other options will miss out on new opportunities that provide better drinking water for their livestock.
If you’re considering purchasing some plastic water troughs for your livestock, take the time to speak with a trained professional to ensure you’re making the best decision for your animals and your business. Between the cleaner water you can offer your animals and durability for a longer product lifespan, plastic troughs seem like an obvious choice, but the experts who sell these troughs can help you select the right size and shape for your needs. Whether you’re replacing an older water trough or moving into livestock for the first time, investing in a plastic water trough is a great step toward keeping a healthy herd.