Here in Castleford, Idaho, we have freezing weather most of November through February. We always seem to have problems with our water troughs freezing up. It is a neverending battle breaking up the ice on the water trough, just for it to freeze back up again within hours.

We have seen many ideas and tried different things, but nothing ever seemed to work for the long run. At our heifer ranch, we started having a big problem with our troughs freezing over in our calf pens. We needed a solution, and we needed it quick. I would break up the ice as much as I could, but nothing seemed to help. The calves would lick away and make holes in the thick ice so they could get water. Then my mom, Kerri (Instagram), remembered seeing a post from @FiveMarysFarm about placing a liter bottle filled with salt and water in their troughs as an experiment. We were having no luck with anything else, so we gave it a try.

After using a liter soda or water bottle, we filled it about a quarter up with salt and the rest with water. We used the salt that is placed in water softeners. I was curious to see if this would work, because I remember doing science experiments with salt and ice in high school, and I was aware that the county uses salt on icy roads to help lower the freezing point. With this in mind, I really thought it could work.

A few days later, I went to check the calves’ water troughs and saw that it had worked. Even on a 17-degree day, the water troughs were thawed and had mostly slush around the top of them. The calves could easily move the slush or break it up. After this working at our heifer ranch, we started making more bottles for the dairy, because we have some smaller troughs in our dry and close-up pen. It seemed to do the trick as well.

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The one thing I did notice as the months went by is that it does seem to wear off. So, I would suggest adding more salt to the bottle every 2 months. Have you tried this trick? Let me know how your results were or if you completed a different variation with more salt than water.


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PHOTOS: Photos by Hannah Vander Poel.

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