Friday, December 03, 2010

The Best Case vs. The Reality

It's interesting ... last night when I was watering the cows they were just going nuts jostling each other and trying to get at the water. Tonight ... I called them over ... they looked at the water and then walked away! Oh well, I filled them up and it's not super cold so hopefully I just have to break a skim of ice in the morning and then they'll get their fill for the day. The pigs on the other hand are being a bit more difficult ... they like to tip over anything that isn't attached to the ground or a post and then they'll try to tip those things over too!

The comments in yesterdays post had me thinking today. They had me thinking about the best case scenario versus the reality of the farm. The suggestions in the comments are the best case scenario. It would be the absolute best to install an energy frost free waterer. In fact I have even been researching it and have picked out a Cobett waterer. In order to install that waterer I would need to trench in a line and tie it in to the main water line from the road. Of course to do that I would need to dig a deep hole for the waterer and a bigger hole where the connection to the main line would be. I would also need to have some gravel delivered or pick some up to put around the waterer ... and I'd need to get a plumber out here to help me because I have a lot to learn along those lines!

In order to do all that I would have to order the waterer (not a big deal because they are made relatively close by). Then I would need to get a trencher out here (also not a major deal because I can borrow one from the farm store where I work for no charge). After that I would need to dig the big holes (I could dig them by hand or go through the expense of renting or hiring an excavator). Finally it would all need to be hooked up, installed, and the gravel placed around the waterer.

The waterer would cost around $650 or so I'm thinking. I have no idea how much the gravel and 200 feet or so of water line would cost, but I know that it wouldn't be a deal breaker. Things do get tricky though once I start thinking about the cost of the excavator, but even that isn't insurmountable. Nope ... the real problem is time! My time is very limited and that's why I don't see the installation of the waterer a real possibility now even if it's what I want and it is the best solution.

I had also hoped to install an heated pig drink at the same time which would require some concrete, more trenching, more water line, and of course electricity out to the location (and the shed because it's along the way). On the flip side ... if I go with my temporary plan for the cattle, sheep, and pigs it would entail one galvanized tank with drinks for the pigs, one bigger tank for the cattle and sheep, and of course the heaters and extension cords. That will probably cost over $500 as well! And, after this winter it would still be my hope to do the more permanent option.

So, there is the dilemma ... the best case is obvious and even not a ton more in the expense department when you compare the two. But, the reality is that doing that job takes time and time is something that must be prioritized on my farm. The general chores need to come first and sometimes (especially with a couple of town jobs and short days) that doesn't leave time for the best case. I'm going to try to make the reality work out as best as possible though!


Anonymous said...

On the flip side, especially if you are going to have some help, the waterer installation is a one day job. 8-10 hrs. max, or you can spend 20-30 minutes a day fooling with heaters and tanks and frozen hoses for the next 120 days. It is all a matter of how you arrange it and the aggravation you are willing to deal with. I like your waterer choice, I have 5 cobett's and love them. My biggest gripe is that they have made improvements to them over the years so if you want those improvements you got to buy them and that can nickle and dime you. The installation of those waterers is so easy I can assure you that you do not need a plumber to help you. Being a diversified farm, your big drawback is that the Cobett's probably aren't going to work very well with the hogs, but will definitely take care of the sheep and cattle. Maybe get the cobett in, and then you only have one tank to deal with for the hogs this winter, and next year you can just T into the line feeding the Cobett and run it over to a hog waterer installation.

bohnsack said...

I know exactly what you mean. I also work in town (a high school teacher). After years of having a marginal fence around my steer lot, I had the fence guy do it right two weeks ago. I could have patched it back up for a marginal cost, but always wanted it done right, mainly for weaning calves. Last night, in the pitch dark, I go to feed the cows and the steers are out of the brand new lot fence. Put them back in (they have been out alot so they know the way back in). This morning I wake up and half the steers are out. Now, I get to go fix the new fence instead of the old fence.

Thanks for a great blog!

Jay Bohnsack
Big Oak Farm

Ethan Book said...

I'm glad to hear another vote of confidence for the Cobett. I've heard a lot of good things about them from others that have them.

And, I agree with all that you say about the time it will take each day from now until March or so ... And its good to know that it can be installed in a 10th hour day with help. My problem/reality is that I have no 10 hour days available any time soon ... Help I could find though I think ...

Anonymous said...

How we did it since cost was a definite factor... our plumber came with his trencher which conveniently has a backhoe attachment on it. He dug the holes and made the trench. My husband laid the line and also laid in an electrical cord to power our new barn. Then the plumber came back and tied the line in at each end and installed the waterer.

Doing it that way kept the labor charges to a minimum. It really didn't take my husband long to lay the lines either once we bought them. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

One thing about the Cobett it looks as if it could be used as a hydrant of sorts to plug in a movable waterer such as K-Line's connected with cam lock fittings to polyethylene piping for your summer's rotational grazing. I assume you have a holisticgoal or something like it so you could test this descision?

Brian said...

I also like to Cobett. It isn't cheap to buy and install, though. I had to get the $750 version (it goes deeper in the ground because I am further north than you). Then the trenching, pipe and plumbing came to an additional $1,000.

Get the Cobett version with the float rather than the floatless version, in my opinion. Also, it will still get a thin layer of ice on top that you have to break in the morning sometimes, but all the important pieces are at the bottom of the water pail, so they do not freeze or break.

You can get by with tanks and heaters this year. That is what I am doing for a second group of animals not near the Cobett.

Rich said...

Our cattle drink out of ponds in the winter so I don't have much experience with water troughs in the winter (I still have to chop through the ice when it gets really cold though).

There is a description of building a "passive solar" water trough at:

Building something relatively inexpensive to get through this winter and then installing a Corbett next summer (supplying the labor yourself instead of paying for it now) seems to me to be a better use of time and money.

I have entertained the thought of building a tire tank like the one described at:

A tank holding that much water combined with the black color of the tire might minimize the amount of ice (depending on how cold it gets) and should cost less than $750 to build. And, somewhere I have a seen a version similar to a Corbett that has the "insulated tube" under the tank.

Jean said...

Gravel is for improved drainage or cleaner place for critter to stand on? If for the critter not for waterer itself, expect it to be all muddied up by next winter. Consider cement platform. Remember how your farm got its name!

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