Tanks and Troughs

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers
Knowledge Nuggets
  • Tanks and troughs provide an opportunity to utilize lower yielding and/or limited water supplies by providing reserve water storage. They can also provide an opportunity for better water distribution in pastures.
  • The size needed depends on whether a tank or trough will provide storage in addition to being a watering point and on the rate at which the trough can be filled.
  • Cattle spend a relatively small amount of their time drinking. Under optimal conditions, no more than 10% to 15% of the herd will be watering at any time. However, the watering site must be capable of handling the entire herd if a long walk is necessary to reach water, or if water can only be supplied at a low rate.
  • Tanks and troughs can be constructed from wood, concrete, steel, fiberglass, polyethylene or compacted soil in a manner that cattle cannot injure themselves or lose their life. The trough should be sufficiently robust to take abuse from the animals and to withstand the rigors of weather.
  • Raised earthen reservoirs are the most economical alternative for storing larger volumes of water. Unless the storage facility can be constructed entirely of compacted clay material, it will require a liner to prevent leakage.
  • Water storage tanks are normally elevated above the surrounding terrain to allow water to be distributed to watering troughs by gravity. The distribution lines and valve mechanisms must be properly selected.
  • The trough should be easy to clean and to maintain.
  • Any plumbing or valves within the water trough should be protected from being damaged by cattle.
  • Place a piece of floating wood into the trough to provide a way for birds and small animals to escape if they happen to fall in.
  • To get optimum use of the pasture, water should be within about 400 m of the paddock on level to undulating terrain. Where slopes exceed 25%, watering sites should be no more than about 200 m away. For less intensively managed grazing areas, troughs should be between 400 and 800 m on rough terrain, between 600 and 1200 m on rolling terrain, and up to 1600 m on level terrain.
  • Protect the permanent trough site from becoming a mud hole. Options such as a concrete pad, poly-grid/gravel base, bark chips, old railway ties, reject floor mats etc. can all be used to provide a dry, solid base around the trough.
  • Cattle should be able to drink without crowding. Each animal should have between 0.7 m and 1 m of space around the perimeter of the trough. Circular troughs provide the most storage for the amount of material used in their construction, but rectangular troughs provide the greatest amount of drinking space relative to their capacity.
Fact Sheets

Alternative Livestock Watering Systems

Pasture Water Systems for Livestock - Manitoba

Rangeland Livestock Water Troughs - Design - Installation - Maintenance - available in PDF format only

Remote Winter Watering Systems for Beef Cattle - Manitoba available in PDF format only

Summer Livestock Water Troughs - available in PDF format only

Troughs for Watering Range Livestock - Manitoba

Research Papers

Effect of water trough type on the drinking behaviour of pasture based beef heifers

Let us know of good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on September 3, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 22, 2015.

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