Frozen Ritchie Waterer

Posted by Rich | Posted in Goats, News, Sheep, Weather | Posted on 20-01-2012

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After 2 solid years of praising our flawless operating Ritchie brand automatic waterers, I was a bit surprised [and alarmed] last night to see that one of the waterers had no water in it.  It was the green Ritchie – the one in the goat & sheep yard.  During chores that day, I noticed frost around the water trough portion of the waterer (I could see it from the barn)… but before I finished chores, I had forgotten about it.  Then early last night, when doing chores again, I thought it strange that the goats and sheep were so noisy.  I checked their hay… that looked good.  OH CRAP!  I remembered that I needed to look at the waterer.

As I approached the waterer, I could hear a sizzle.  It was the heating elements “frying” whatever was in the stainless-steel trough of the waterer.  My first thought was that the underground water-line had froze.  I thought that possibility was doubtful, since it had been so unseasonably warm, up until this last week.  The one way to make sure the buried pipe was NOT froze was to check the hydrant and waterer down-line from this one.

Once I reached the Ritchie waterer, out in the cattle pasture, I could see there was still water in it… but was the water still flowing from below?  A few yards away was the hydrant.  When I pulled the lever, there was a rush of air… then water.  OK, good.  It meant we had water flowing through the pipes underground.  From that, I knew our problem with the other waterer was/should be inside that other waterer.

The problem at that moment, was this… it wass getting dark and we don’t know how long the goats and sheep have been without water.  I went to the house and let Carol know the situation.  After a short pow-wow near the barn, we found a small stock tank and a few water buckets.  Just like the first 20 months we were on the farm, we were once again filling a stock tank by hand.  To our luck and surprise, the animals were not that thirsty.  After about 16-20 gallons of water, they stopped drinking.  Cool.  I could breath easy.  I’d look at the frozen waterer tomorrow.

This morning, with an inch of fresh snow on the ground, I popped the top of the green waterer and noticed that it wasn’t froze inside.  The float mechanism moved freely and there was moisture on the flexible tubing.  Hmmmm.  I felt of the heat cord – it was warm.  I replaced the cover, figuring the problem was below.

The last few days, here in Minnesota, have been brutally cold – the  high temp. for yesterday was -2°F, with wind-chills below -40°F.  Other days, we were lucky to see 5°F.  With that said, I understood if the waterer’s thermo-tube couldn’t prevent things from freezing inside.

Once I opened the side access door, I could see frost in the thermo-tube and on the water valve.  I tried moving the valve lever.  I couldn’t – it was stuck.  Lucky for me, I had installed an outlet inside the waterer cavity when I put in the Ritchie waterer.  Having an outlet made things so much easier.  I unplugged the waterer electronics and plugged in my heat-gun.  After 4-5 minutes, water started to flow.  Needless to say, I was quite relieved.

I re-plugged in the waterer, closed the access door and preceded to mentally pat myself on the back.  “Ah yes… a job well done,” I thought.

What really surprised us it that the Ritchie waterer froze, but the pipes in the house have not.

~Rich