I belong to several FB Groups focused on raising livestock, and I always shudder when folks from Canada show crafty ways to keep the drinking water from freezing (for the record, they’re pretty creative chaps). But here in Texas we rarely get a freeze that lasts longer than 24 hours and the cattle can break through the thin layer of ice (if any) that forms on the ponds. This past week presented some unique challenges though.
It was raining when the freeze came so as you can see from the pictures, everything is seized up. Things you never thought of immediately present themselves when this happens. You can’t open gates (the chains and latches are frozen in place), the tractor loader controls are frozen, and the tires are stuck to the ground.
I had a heck of a time moving the chicken tractor as it too was frozen to the earth. When I was able to pry it free, about 10 lbs. of sod came with it. But as mentioned, during sustained freezes, drinking water becomes the biggest concern. I typically provide water troughs for the cattle to protect the riparian area around the ponds (cows erode the banks) but the hoses that supply those waterers froze up 5 days ago.
We’re fortunate to have several deep ponds that remain liquid, so I’ve turned the cattle loose to drink directly from them. We don’t have any pigs on pasture now, so that leaves the chickens. Our adult layers are free range, so they are also able to drink from a small pond, but we have about 90 poults in the chicken tractor that are still too young to turn loose (they’d be a tasty meal for a hawk or owl).
Under normal conditions, they’d drink from gravity fed nipple feeders - but this is far from normal. So, every morning I put a pot on the stove and bring about 5 gallons of water to a simmer. I pour this into a waterer and thus far it has stayed liquid for about 10 hours. I’ll probably have to do that twice a day soon as we’re expecting temperatures to drop even lower.
And let’s not forget the dogs. I see several concerned people (we’ll call them Karen) on Facebook reminding everyone to bring in their dogs and cats. Well, Bonnie and Princess have work to do! The coyote’s and bobcat’s appetite only grows in this weather. Of course, the dogs dietary needs grow too, so we’ve been pumping up the calories in their diets. If anything, the dogs seem to enjoy the cold. They’re very frisky and playful when they see me venture outside. If things get really nasty, they can nestle amongst the hay in the barn. The bigger challenge is coming in a few months when temperatures break 100 degrees! I wonder - will Canadian farmers be thinking of me come August?