The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Planning for goat water

Starplate coop

Several of you asked (or warned) about fencing for our upcoming goats.  I started to write a long post in reply about my complicated plans on that front, but it seemed a little silly to theorize when I'll be able to report on our trial and error in less than a month.  However, there is a goat-related conundrum we're currently trying to solve --- water.

We plan to house our new goats in our starplate coop, but the structure is about 250 feet from the closest water source and up a relatively steep hill.  It was a bit wearying to carry a five-gallon bucket to the coop once a week over the summer, so I can only imagine how old the chore will get for goats (who presumably drink more than chickens) during the winter months.

Hand pumpWe've come up with several potential summer solutions, but winter ones will require more industry.  We can finish working up the gutters and rain-barrel system, but the spigot is bound to freeze during the winter whether or not the tank is big enough prevent the whole thing from freezing solid.  Similarly, we could pump water from the creek into our IBC tanks, but our creek-line isn't buried and only sometimes runs in the winter (and we'd still have to deal with a frozen spigot).

Gene Logsdon posted a few weeks ago about burying rain barrels to make mini-cisterns, and I think the idea has potential in our starplate pasture.  I love to dig, especially at this time of year when garden work is winding down, and the starplate earth is much lighter than the stuff in our core homestead.  Plus, Mark brought a hand-pump home from the hardware store many moons ago, thinking we might need it if the world came to an end, and we could use that to get water out of the buried rain barrel in order to hydrate our herd.

But I have a feeling that I'm missing something even more obvious.  Ideas?  How would you water goats located far enough away from the house that extension cords don't really reach?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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In my part of the country solar stock tank heaters are pretty common. You could also, depending upon your configuration, fairly easily wire up a bit of heat line/cable. There are various versions for roofs, gutters, pipes, water lines.

I don't remember if you've considered that in your past explorations or not, apologies for the duplicate if you have.

Basically it's a line that has high resistance so throws off some amount of heat instead of sending electricity much of anywhere. Many come with various regulators to match your needs. ie it only turns on once it senses a certain drop in temp or you set it to turn on every day from 6-7 am and run the water tank full and then let things cool again till you need it again. Assuming your water lines are drainback or capable of dealing with freeze thaw cycles.

Comment by c. Thu Sep 18 09:56:02 2014
The freezing of your lines is definitely the biggest obstacle to overcome. Burying the IBC seems like a good option. I would keep in mind that if the container water level got low and your water table went up it may try to float and come up out of the ground. Another option could involve a 55 gallon barrel in with the animals so their body heat could keep the water warm enough to not freeze. Space may be too tight for that option though.
Comment by Brian Thu Sep 18 10:07:09 2014

Do you have enough sun for a flat black painted water barrel to give you enough thermal mass to take advantage of solar heating?

Perhaps a small scrap lumber and plastic greenhouse style setup around your water supply. Small PV setup to run a light bulb.

Keep the barrel inside the pen to utilize heat given off by the goats?

Any combination thereof. I wish I could be solving those kinds of problems with my days.

Comment by Noah Thu Sep 18 10:52:04 2014

You can change the freezing point of water by adding e.g. sugar or table salt to it.

According to this, a solution of one part sugar on three parts water will start freezing at 26-27 F.

There are probably other salts (in the sense of reaction products of a base and an acid) that depress the freezing point as well. Maybe there are salts that goats can drink without problems?

Comment by Roland_Smith Thu Sep 18 14:22:15 2014

I don't remember whether you are totally on solar or not - and this advice would be moot if you were - but when we lived in an RV, we made use of a serious, heavy-duty extension cord made to go a long distance. We used 2 cords that ended up going 150' - 200' and still held enough power to run the RV lights, fridge, radio, TV etc.

As I recall, the cords were somewhat expensive ($200?), and you had to be careful not to mow over them. But they held up in bad weather for 8 months.

Given all that expense, I would choose some other option, but it's good to know about.

Comment by Faith T Thu Sep 18 16:35:22 2014

Hydraulic ram pump from creek.

If you bury barrels, use a bucket to dip water out to trough once a day.

Comment by Errol Thu Sep 18 16:53:53 2014
If you'll be visiting your goats every day, it isn't a big deal to carry along a 2 gallon bucket of warm water. They love the warm water in the winter, and mine are actually picky about the container being clean, so I just switch out the bucket twice a day. I've never found that my gals (nigoras, so probably about the same size) drink much more than 2 gallons in the winter between the three of them. That way you don't really have to worry about heating their water bucket either, just switch it out & let the frozen one thaw out inside the house (instead of busting bucket after bucket trying to knock out the ice!) There is probably a much easier way, but that always involves either a lot of initial work (digging), or initial investment, and I guess I like simplicity (even if it does mean toting along fresh water daily). Just my two cold climate cents!
Comment by Allison Fri Sep 19 01:31:43 2014

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