Friday, July 8, 2022

Bovine Rhodes Scholar

Yesterday morning.

This young cow is inside the creep feeder, which is designed to keep cows out and let calves in so that they can gobble up some tasty nutrition. There was another cow in the other side of the feeder. I texted the owner, who sent his son out to evict the cows and adjust the opening height (by moving a bar down) to prevent such a thing from happening again. A cow getting into the feeder isn't a problem except she'll eat all the very expensive feed which she doesn't need but the calves do.

This morning.

You may notice that the bar has been lowered as far as it will go. I let her out, replaced the bar, and texted the owner. If I had to guess I'd say she re-entered the feeder as soon as the son drove away yesterday morning. I base that guess on how thirsty she was when I let her out. She went right to the tank and slurped up water for a good 10 minutes.

Who knows how it'll all end?


Cattle are big animals. The range cows on the ranch average about 1,300 pounds. Like all animals, they need water, and as big animals, they need a lot of water. In the winter they'll drink 10 gallons per day; in the summer it's 20-plus gallons. Just like people, they can survive without water for a couple of days, perhaps three days, but it's not a good idea. Just like people they should have water available on demand. And that's why we have stock tanks.

At the moment we have 91 cows, 86 calves, and two bulls on the place. While the calves do drink from the stock tanks, they get most of their water from mama's milk, and only take a gallon or two of fresh water per day. So for guestimating total herd water consumption you usually count the cow-calf pair as a single unit. Makes the math easier. You also count the bulls with the cows; for practical purposes there's no difference in water consumption.

So to ballpark total daily water consumption we'll peg maximum consumption per head per day at 22.5 gallons. Thus 93 times 22.5 equals 2,092.5 gallons per day. Evaporation and spillage takes some of the available water away, so we'll say 2,500 gallons to be on the safe side.

The stock tank Rhody was drinking from is eight feet in diameter and two feet tall. How many gallons does hold? 2,500? Let's see if I remember my fourth grade math. To get the volume of a cylinder you do the pie are round, cornbread are square thingy. So pi times the radius squared times height. That's 3.14159yadayadaX48 squaredX24=173,717.5 cubic inches. There are 231 cubic inches in a gallon, so 173,717.5/231=752-ish gallons. Call it 750. It's a good thing that particular stock tank is connected to a well pump, because that group of cattle drink 3.3 times the volume of that tank every day.

In the pasture to the north, the 20 foot bottomless stock tank holds about 4,700 gallons, but it's supplied by a windmill-pumped well. When there's a reasonable breeze the well can easily keep up with cattle demand. When there's no wind, as is often the case in the heat of summer, not so much. Which is part of the reason that pasture has two windmills (the other one has a pair of 8'x2' tanks). In that pasture when it's hot and there's no wind a group of cattle numbering 93 mature animals with attendant calves run out of water in two days. That's not a problem for us, so long as we've got electricity to run the home place well. I just have to open a gate to give the cattle access to one of the stock tanks on the home place pipeline system. Which is a pretty good deal, all things considered.


I was planning on writing more, but it's been a long day of physical labor in the hot sun and I'm all tuckered out.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Though I doubt I'll ever need such information, it kinda makes me feel good that now I know it.

    Ya never know!

    1. Thanks Chris.
      Yeah, you never know, you might be on Jeopardy someday. And find out my numbers aren't the same as theirs!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. EIGHT- and the cow ate the kid's meals....
    On Navy ships we plan for fresh water consumption at 25 gallons per person per day. That includes drinking, cooking, scullery use, and bathing.
    Us engineering types usually got the evaporators to crank out that much, after taking what we needed to feed nice sweet, salt free water to the boilers.
    Sometimes, if a boiler feedwater tank got salted up a little we could divert that to fresh (potable) water tanks. But if there were mechanical issues, or the evaporators were not running efficiently (colder seawater makes the condensation process much more efficient, but hot seawater means less output from the evaps) then we had to go on "water hours." Sometimes that included switching to paper plates for chow to save dishwashing consumption. Shutting down showers except for a very brief period each day was often necessary (and unpopular). We snipes liked water hours least of all as we were usually the sweatiest bunch.
    Bird farms often had a reputation of a foul JP-5 diesel odor to the fresh water, but in the tin can navy, not much of a concern, even though we burned "diesel fuel marine" in the boilers (Navy Standard Fuel Oil- NSFO black oil before that- nasty stuff!).

    1. Yeah, that crazy cow. SMH. Of course she's just doing what makes sense to her and doesn't know or care about the big picture. Mostly because she's living the real big picture and our human big picture is actually pretty small stuff.
      Now that you mention it I seem to recall that 25 gallons per man per day number, probably from Surface Warfare quals (which is a fun challenge for an airdale on a carrier; those "real" navy ratings loved to instruct us in the one true way). We had water hours on Nimitz one time; the C.O. thought we needed to practice being miserable. That was the scuttlebutt anyway. Nimitz had JP5 water for sure. Kennedy had DFM water. America had water water which I appreciated. Coral Sea... SMH. There was always heavy fuel oil and too much chlorine. I always assumed the fuel oil came from the evaps as the leaking old barge sailed through a perpetual oil slick. In medical we surmised the heavy chlorine load was because sewage and potable was mixing somewhere but no one could figure out exactly where. Those were the days!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting John!