Sweating through August’s “flash drought,” many Oklahoma livestock keepers probably reviewed their strategies for making sure their animals have enough water. That makes a reminder about one of our own favorite methods seem timely.
At key locations around the Kerr Center ranch, we have a number of watering points made from old tractor tires. Making the tanks from this material re-uses something that would otherwise take up space in a landfill, but that’s the least of the benefits.
The tires are half-buried, giving them plenty of depth – which helps keep the water cool. (It also protects against freezes, but that’s a worry for another season.)
The “tire tanks’” depth also keeps cattle from being able to reach the float valves that supply them with water, lowering the chances that they’ll get broken and cause costly leaks.
In the Kerr Center’s case, our tractor-tire water tanks are also gravity-fed from ponds higher up in the landscape. That way, we don’t have to run a pump to fill them.
Keeping livestock supplied with ample, clean water is essential for their survival during droughts like the one we’ve been going through. It’s also a powerful tool for pasture management year-round. Studies have shown that as long as cattle are within 800 feet of water, they graze more efficiently, since they can spend more time eating grass and less time walking to and from water.
If you can keep a watering point within that distance no matter where cattle are on the spread, they’ll graze it more evenly. Spread the watering points farther apart than that, and they’ll overgraze the areas nearest water and leave the farther corners ungrazed – wasting forage on both ends.
The livestock section of our website has many free resources on the design and construction of watering systems for livestock. Our YouTube channel also has detailed videos explaining both the preparation and installation of tractor-tire watering tanks. (We’ve also got a text version.) Check them out!