Choosing a water trough may not be very high on the list of priorities for those raising cattle, but choosing the right water trough for cattle can make a big difference. Water from poorly built or poorly maintained troughs can cause illness in livestock, costing you money over time in vet bills and lost profits. Good water troughs not only give you peace of mind about the health of your livestock, but are also hardy and durable, so you do not needlessly waste your financial resources repairing or replacing your cattle’s water trough.

So, what criteria should you consider when purchasing a water trough for cattle?

Find the Right Size

First you should consider the size of trough you need. This is not necessarily an easy task. As you plan out the dimensions of the trough you should get, you should consider the number of animals you currently have, as well as any planned growth. Don’t settle for the number you have at present, or you will not be able to grow your herd. Instead, plan out where you hope to be in the next ten years and go with that number.

The smallest size you can get for a cattle trough is usually around 140 gallons. Many cattle farmers choose 500-gallon water troughs in order to provide their animals with constant access to clean water without the need for constant refilling.

Which Shape Fits Your Needs?

Shape is also an important consideration. Many troughs need a framework because they cannot hold up on their own. If your water trough for cattle has any straight sides or flat walls, such as rectangular or square tanks, it will bow outward. The answer to this is to build an external frame to prevent failure. Any straight-walled trough filled over 18” needs an external frame to prevent failure. Once bowing has occurred it is difficult to remedy, so it is important to have your framework set up before you fill your tanks.

However, Cylindrical or Round stock tanks will not bow. Their structure is self supporting. As long as you do not have your trough backed up near a wall and can get a size big enough to fit your herd, it may be advantageous to get a round or oval stock tank to save you the cost of building a framework.

Materials Matter

Invest in a trough that’s durable and fit for the intended purpose. Cattle are not fast moving creatures in general, but they can pack quite a push, especially when congregating together for a much needed hydration break. You don’t want one accidental shove to crack your tank, ruining the water for all. Choosing the material for your water trough for cattle is essential in determining how tough your trough will be. Here are some highlights of different materials:


Metal water troughs for cattle are fairly durable in that they are unlikely to crack their frames. However, joints can be bent, and pipes can be misaligned, causing plumbing issues and water leakage. Probably the most common failure in a metal water trough would be the cracking of the inside plastic liner, which protects the water from leaching unhealthy minerals from the tank.


Concrete tanks are probably the most durable. Once they are poured, it is unlikely that they will be moved by anything or anyone. That strength is their downside as well though, because they require on-site maintenance rather than having any ability to be moved for cleaning, and because they must be formed and poured, their installation is quite expensive.


Fiberglass tanks are light and easy to install, but they are perhaps the most prone to crack from to any abuse by livestock or handlers. They also require a special coating to be considered food grade, to ensure the safety of your cattle.


Plastic water troughs for cattle are the most versatile. They suffer some vulnerability to cracks under abuse, but they can be made with UV resistant material which will prevent them from becoming brittle after spending many days in the open sunlight. They are also the most likely to “bounce back” after a hit rather than crack or dent like the other materials.


Safety First

When it comes to water troughs for cattle, there are two kinds of safety you should consider.

The first is the physical safety of the trough. For fiberglass troughs, this is perhaps the one area they are the weakest in performing. They are susceptible to cracking if cattle hit them hard enough, which is sure to happen, as cows aren’t always the most graceful creatures. Those cracks can cause sharp edges that can injure your cattle if not dealt with quickly. They also can develop cracks if there is a sudden drop below freezing temperatures. For this purpose, concrete or plastic troughs are superior.

However, there is a second kind of safety to consider as well: water purity. Metal troughs will leach zinc into the water, because rainwater is slightly acidic by nature. Any copper piping can leach copper into the water as well, which can have even more harmful effects on your cattle than zinc. Concrete water troughs for cattle will leach lime into the water supply, which will take away the acidity of the water. Only plastic water troughs for cattle can be engineered to be food-grade material and eliminate the concern for leaching unhealthy minerals into the water.

If you have copper pipes that fill your trough, there is no need to panic. There are two ways you can help prevent copper from leaching into your troughs from pipes. The first is to get a filter and attach it to the tap. This will catch those unhealthy minerals before they reach your drinking water. Another, simpler method is to flush the water out of the pipes that you use it to fill the trough for the first few seconds. Even if your tap goes directly into the trough, you can easily remedy this by attaching a small hose to the tap and redirecting the first few seconds of water before using it in the trough.

Supply Systems & Regulations

Now it is time to think about how you will get water into your trough. What kind of weather situations will you face? Are there certain seasons you will need to make accommodations for freezing temperatures? Just because you have a trough that may be resistant to freezing and cracking itself does not mean your water and your water pipes may not freeze, thus preventing your cattle from getting the water they need.

You may also need to do some research on what type of regulations your farm needs to adhere to. This helps you in two ways. First, it keeps you from being fined for not following local regulations. Another reason to look into regulations is to have more opportunities to receive grants. There is money to out there and people who are willing to invest in you, but you will need to be sure you are operating according to their standards and regulations. You will only be able to do that if you find out what those regulations are.

For example, some professional trough installers work to create air gaps to comply with regulations for backflow. Some of these same tanks are also approved for farm development grant schemes. If you would like to find out more about this, check with your local professional trough installers. They can be a great source of information on grant possibilities as well as general recommendations for purchasing and installing your water trough for cattle.

Green solutions

Along with regional regulations, most of which are used to help protect your cattle and the surrounding environment, you may be looking for eco-friendly possibilities in water troughs. Plastic water troughs are by far the most eco-friendly solution because they can be completely recycled and/or reused. Concrete troughs are not meant to be moved, let alone recycled. Metal and fiberglass troughs are more difficult to either re-use or recycle because they have special coatings and inner linings that need to be replaced over time.

However, plastic water troughs for cattle can simply be melted down and re-engineered into any shape, size, or color, and they will already be made of food grade material. In fact, when you purchase a new plastic water trough, chances are good that it is made of recycled materials. If being environmentally friendly is important to you or your farm, plastic water troughs are the way to go.

As you can see, you have many options available to you when purchasing and installing a water trough for cattle. Following these guidelines will ensure that you’re able to find a trough that will meet your needs for the size of your herd as well as your specific circumstances regarding climate, budget, and supply systems. If you have more questions, reach out to the experts at GoToTanks for more information about how plastic water troughs can be a great fit for your livestock’s watering needs.

Everyone loves Disney World. Whether it is the classic rides like Space Mountain or the newer Star Wars attractions at Hollywood Studios, there is something for everyone. One of the greatest attractions is actually one of the lesser known rides at Epcot called Living with the Land. It because it takes you behind the scenes of the whole park and shows you how they grow the food they serve across all four parks.

Good land is at a premium price in Orlando, Florida and much of it is very swampy. In order to save money on importing food, the operators of Disney World decided to build tanks and irrigation systems to grow their own food in greenhouses. They have elaborate setups, some which include fish farm aquariums that irrigate and fertilize fruit and vegetable crops above them, all within the same large tank. It is a stroke of brilliance that allows the natural cycles of nature to help promote growth in their man-made agriculture economy.

The great news is that with the right tools, you can do this too! You don’t need a gigantic tank or miles of PVC pipes. All you need a water trough to get started with some really creative gardening.

Creative Containers

How can you use a water trough for gardening? The concept is really the same as what Disney has been doing for years. Instead of thinking of the water trough as a big bowl or pan of water, think of it as a miniature ecosystem. In this ecosystem you will need soil, water, access to sunlight (or an electronic equivalent), and seeds or small plants.

What kind of plants can you grow in a water trough for gardening? One of the easiest things would be to create a raised flower bed. Any small flower (other than bushes or vines) will probably work in any size trough. You can plant as many as you want, in any design you choose, supply them with nutrient-enriched soil, and watch them grow. If your trough has a hole to attach a hose you can hook it up to your water supply and have an easy way of watering your flower bed. Even if it is a solid trough, if it is plastic, you could probably drill out a hole to attach a hose for irrigation. You may also want to consider adding additional holes for drainage.

Another easy water trough idea is growing potatoes. It may not be as attractive as a raised flower bed, but it can provide you and your family some extra food for little cost and far less work than planting potatoes in a traditional garden. Many companies today sell special bags to fill with dirt and grow potatoes in. They are hardier plants and do not require as much constant care as many others. A water trough is easily comparable and probably will provide a larger amount of produce for the work and money you put into it.

Down at Disney World, they grew all kinds of fruit and vegetables in trough-like environments. You might consider growing tomatoes, peppers, and even watermelons. These vine-like fruits/vegetables require a little bit of extra work in directing their growth and making sure their bigger fruits are adequately supported. Watermelons, for example, could grow outside the trough, fall out, and break upon the ground. However, since watermelons have to be rotated regularly so that they grow into the proper shape and don’t rot on the bottom, growing them in a trough means you can easily make those rotations without having to bend over to the ground.

The typical garden setup is that the soil is the lowest level, followed by the branches/vines of the plant, and the fruit grows out of the top. If you invert this image though, putting the soil on a raised platform, letting the vines grown down around it, and the fruit to grow down below the trough, you will have something that looks a bit unusual (Looking more like a melon tree!), but you will have easy access to that fruit and not have to worry about it sitting on the ground. This may not work for heavy produce, but for things that grow on vines, like peas, or on large, meandering plants, like tomatoes, it can be a great solution.

A Water Trough Idea for Weeding

One of the best reasons to try a water trough for gardening is for simplified weeding. Large community plantations often use rubber tubing or strong plastic to line rows in order to prevent weeds from growing. As the crops begin to sprout, they poke small holes in the covering and pull the leaves through. This way the crops get sunlight, but nothing else trying to grow in the soil does. You can do the same thing even easier with a water trough for gardening. Once your plants start sprouting, simply cover the trough with a dark cloth or perhaps even a plastic garbage bag. You can poke small holes through it and pull the leaves of your plant through. This way it will get all the sunlight it needs.

If you have an irrigation hole in the side for water, you won’t have to worry about watering it from the top. It may look like it could suffocate your plant, but remember plants breathe through their leaves, not their roots. The only things that will be suffocating will be the weeds.

The other upside to this method of gardening is that you can actually fit more plants in a smaller trough than in the same area of garden because they won’t have to compete with weeds for nutrients. Just think, no more pulling weeds and three or four times the harvest as well!

Supporting your Water Trough for Gardening

Many troughs will need a framework. They will not hold up on their own. This applies to water troughs for watering animals, and especially water troughs for gardening. Any straight-sided or flat-walled rectangular or square tank will bow outward and will need an external frame for support to prevent failure. Anything that’s being filled over 18” needs an external frame to prevent failure. However, cylindrical or round tanks will not bow – they are self-supporting.

Luckily, if you’re making a raised garden bed, there’s some great ways to make this work for your yard. Using stones, bricks, or decorative timber as an external frame can support the trough while also creating a lovely look for your yard.

Good Soil with Regulated Water

With good soil and regulated water, you can grow anything that will fit in your trough. That is great news for people that live in areas where the the topsoil is little or non-existent. Whether you live in a flat, dry dustbowl or in a rocky, mountainous area, you are more likely to see livestock agriculture than vast fields of crops. It is these same areas where you are likely to see watering troughs being used for livestock. Why not use a few more water troughs for gardening or other water trough ideas?

You could save your family money on groceries by growing some vegetable produce. If you are ambitious enough, you might be able to start a business growing produce that is foreign to your region. In a temperature-controlled basement with grow lights, you may be able to grow small tropical plants in the dead of winter, which you could sell at a premium in your community while the larger markets may have to import from overseas or simply not have anything available.

What was that about fish?

Yes, another water trough idea is growing fish – or at least, giving them a place to live while you enjoy the ambience a water feature adds to your landscaping. In fact, if you build a decorative support around it, no one will know that the basis of your new family attraction is a water trough.

Like any aquarium, it will require cleaning and maintenance. You will need to ensure that the water is properly oxygenated and clean of too much algae. Some kinds of fish will help eat up algae for you, but there is always more than they can do themselves. You will need to feed your fish regularly and remove any dead fish to prevent their bodies from releasing toxins into the water.

Most importantly though, you need to choose your fish carefully. If it is an outdoor fish pond, you will need to restock it seasonally and probably empty it during the months that the temperature drops to freezing. You will need to choose fish that can withstand colder temperatures. On the other hand, if your fish pond is in a temperature controlled environment, you have a lot of options to choose from when stocking your fish pond. Decide whether you want to use freshwater or saltwater fish. Do some research to find out which kinds of fish get along well. Don’t overstock your pond, but give them the freedom to move about the tank.

There is no limit to what you can do for water trough ideas. Put your imagination to work and create something wonderful today!


There are two types of farmers in the world: Those that sow the seeds, spray the weeds, and sit back until it’s time to harvest the crop… and farmers that work every day caring for livestock. (more…)


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.

1. Plastic Water Troughs are lighter and easier to install.

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.

2. Cleaner and Safer

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.

3. More Resistant to Heat and UV Light

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.

4. Recyclable and Reusable

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.

5. More Options

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.


Special Note:

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.