Water Trough Tires

I clearly remember that summer.

My son, Will, and I added insulation and tin to the roof on our house while my husband, Steve, built a round corral on the hill.

I didn’t ask Steve for help on the roof and he didn’t ask me for help on the corral. Sometimes, it’s easier that way.

The tin roof is still there and Steve did a good job. Sorting cattle is easy in that corral.

But holding cattle there has been a problem.

They have nothing to drink.

At first, we stuck a couple of troughs along the fence, filled a water tank on a trailer and hauled water. That worked as long as we had a couple of hours every day to fill the tank and the valve didn’t freeze.

Then I ran a hose from the barn to the corral troughs. Gravity pulls all of our water from a hillside spring to the houses and barn below. Turns out, gravity will push water up to the corral, too.

But a couple of winters ago, below-zero temperatures forced me to thaw 175 feet of hose in my warm basement every day. Winding and unwinding garden hose so water could puddle on my basement cement got old fast.

A quick call to my contractor friend resulted in a buried line to the corral that changed my life. I no longer worried about corral water every single day.

Instead, I worried about calves stepping into or over the two-foot-high, plastic trough. A misplaced hoof could send me right back to filling a trailer tank or winding up hose.

So I set posts on either side of the concrete pad and bolted protective rails to them.

The cattle got itchy.

Steers rubbed the rails to pieces even before the bone-chilling wind froze the trough float. I chipped ice and poured hot water over the plastic float.

I might as well be hauling water.

Repetitive time-sucks provide strong motivation.

I needed to protect the trough from cattle and cold, but how?

I thought about this conundrum as I searched for a place to park my pickup among all of my old, worn-out tires. I hate paying a disposal fee so I always bring my ruined tires home from the tire shop.


Black, rubber, heat-absorbing tires.

Tough, durable tires.

Free, already right here, sitting in several piles tires.

I hooked up the post-hole digger to the skid steer and planted a post on each side of the concrete pad. When the posts were not quite centered, I realized that was good. The cattle had wide spots and narrow spots to reach the trough.

Then I played ring-toss with posts and tires.

Happily, I used 21 old tires to buffer the trough from itchy cattle and cold wind.

Sadly, I still have plenty more old tires.

That’s okay, though. I still have plenty more water troughs. I doubt I’ll ever run out of wind either.

I have a few yearlings in the corral now, testing my trough-blocker plan.

Periodically, I find a few of the tires laying on the ground after the steers have been rubbing.

I thought about filling the tires with dirt to stabilize the whole contraption, but then, when the steers rub, all of that pressure might pop the post in half. Loose tires can scratch and move.

We have yet to enjoy an autumn frost, much less a freezing wind so I don’t know whether those black tires will absorb enough heat to keep the trough float from freezing.

I don’t know what other factors I didn’t anticipate.

I do know I’ll find out.

Meanwhile, my rubber ring-toss is better than hauling water.

Lisa Schmidt