Automatic/heated Waterers for Pastures

My husband and I are in the planning stages of putting in water lines around our farm. We’ve managed with hoses for 5 years now to get water to 40 horses on 30 acres…in our generally mild climate it was not that much trouble…after this last winter, I’m done with that! :frowning:

Because of the size of the property and no power nearby, we’ve not been able to use tank heaters also so we’re constantly breaking ice when it’s cold, like this past winter, and dealing with frozen hoses also.

Also we are hoping to save money and time on the task of keeping water tubs clean. Right now I pay my help for several hours of work weekly to dump and clean tubs.

We are talking about having to use probably 10-12 different waterers so economics is a big deal…but I think in the long run, what they save in time and paid help and hassles will be worth it.

So…I was wondering if anyone here could recommend good Brands of waterers for the money to put out in pastures. Obviously they need to be tough and durable and really not freeze up in winter.

I’d also like to do the same in my stalls in the barn so any thoughts on inside waterers would be appreciated also. They’d need some insulation but not as much as the outside waterers as our barn stays pretty decent inside when closed up in the winter.

I was just going to post the same question! However I only need 2 double ones, and I already have the water lines and electricity right to the fields. Any ideas on recommended brands, and who to install. We are in Mid-Maryland. Also, what I can expect to pay?

I’ve got Nelson and they are worth every penny. My husband (who is handy at plumbing and electrical work) was able to install the units.

If you are concerned with water consumption, you can get meters for them but really, I haven’t worried about how much my horses are drinking because I see them drinking from the waterers all the time.

I’ve had them in the barn and in the pastures for 9 years now. Only had one that had a small problem with a valve. Easily fixed with the kit you can buy from Nelson.

Good luck. After you install the waterers you will wonder how you lived without them!!!

Another no power / heat free solution are our Cobett Waterers. You can check them out at

I’ve had Nelsons for over 20 years at three different farms. They’re by far the best I’ve found.

ditto on the Nelsons. My five have never given me a moment of trouble over the past six years (and our winters are worse than yours!)

Customer service is amazing (I ordered an extra bowl recently) – they found my original order, told the kind of bowl I’d need and got it to me quickly.

Recommend them very very highly.

I have had experience with the Nelson waterers in both stalls and fields at a farm I worked at. They were fantastic and easy to open the top to clean the bowl, though if you have a horse who likes to dunk hay, definitely offer a larger second water bucket or the Nelson waterer can get clogged easily with the hay. I did find I had to clean out the field ones more frequently in the summer as the birds liked to use it, though overall they were super easy to use and new horses to the farm (and foals) got used to them very quickly. Great product.

We have Richies and I love them. I didn’t even have to put a heater in the one that was in the big (20 horse) group’s turnout this winter… even when it was well below zero with lower windchills. For the ones that we needed heat in, I just used little bird bath heaters.

The horses love them too - cleaner water all the time. I can’t believe that I lived for so many years without auto waterers in my turnouts!

I’ve never heard many complaints about Nelsons; they seem to be the gold standard and you probably can’t go wrong with them.

I have a Varnan and am very, very happy with it. I like that it’s a LARGE tub (20 gallons) so horses can drink as fast and as deeply as they like, even multiple horses at once. I have the “super winter duty” one and I do have to keep the heater turned up but if I do so it does not freeze, even in hideous Lake Michigan winters with subzero temperatures and high winds. This winter, in fact (a relatively mild one) I had to crank the heater down because I had algae in February! :lol:

Another “like” is the fact that the only real “part” that is prone to wear and tear is a regular old toilet valve, which even I can replace for five bucks and the parts are available everywhere.

I never do so, but theoretically if I wanted to monitor water intake I could just turn off the valve, keep the 20 gallons in the tub and see how long it was taking a horse to drink it. My herd all shares a waterer, though, and frankly if I were that concerned about individual water intake I’d have the horse inside with buckets.

I don’t know how the price stacks up to a Nelson, but mine was about $700 for the super insulated version, all parts included. Best money ever spent. :yes:

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[quote=AppJumpr08;4842119]We have Richies and I love them. I didn’t even have to put a heater in the one that was in the big (20 horse) group’s turnout this winter… even when it was well below zero with lower windchills. For the ones that we needed heat in, I just used little bird bath heaters.

The horses love them too - cleaner water all the time. I can’t believe that I lived for so many years without auto waterers in my turnouts![/quote]

Does yours have the ball they have to push down to drink? I wondered when you said the water stays clean.

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions! :smiley:

My Richies have a floating cover that insulates the water and keeps light to a minimum. Very little opportunity for algae to grow. I don’t need the heaters until the temps are staying in the teens. With heaters, they do just fine in the -20s (F).

You will LOVE having auto-waterers!

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[QUOTE=Daydream Believer;4842446]Does yours have the ball they have to push down to drink? I wondered when you said the water stays clean.

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions! :D[/QUOTE]

No I don’t have the balls… I just ment that because the water reservoirs are so much small than big tanks - there is a plug at the bottom of the reservoir that makes it SUPER easy to clean… just pull the plug, let the dirty water run out, and stick the plug back in.
The ones with the balls look interesting though - we just picked up some Nelsons that have the balls - I’m curious to see which the horses like better. I wonder if the balls turn some horses off so they don’t drink as much ?

I also have a Ritchie, and I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve had it for 11 years now, and it hasn’t broken or malfunctioned ONCE. I’m talking -40* C weather, and the water is still unfrozen with the floaty thermal cap on top. Occasionally it’ll ice over slightly when the weather is unrelenting, but punches through easily.

Cool fresh water in the summer, durable, easy to clean… love love love it.

We have the single one:

We put in a Miraco waterer on a fence line (waterers two pastures for the price of one!)
It is not hard wired- we ran an actual plug there- in case anything ever happens we can plug a tank heater/new heater into it.

We also put one of these in a stall, although with loosing Champ, we haven’t used that box stall much…

We love ours and it was so easy to hook up. We could buy it at the local feed store, and not have to order it (or order parts). It saves us SO MUCH time and the horses love the fresh, warm water. It survived our Colorado winter! It’s suer easy to clean. Our electricity bill wasn’t different (we used multiple tanks and heaters before). We’ve actually saved on water- no more dumping 1/4 tank of dirty water, or leaving the hose on :slight_smile: And, I think they are much cheaper then Nelsons!

We replaced an old hydrant too when we installed the line. Ideally, we would have put a hydrant near the waterer as a back up, but we began to run out of time (the temperature dropped the night we had the trench open, and we rushed to get the project done and trench filled).

Delta, some places sell water timer guages. They’re small and easy to attach to the lines going into your waterer. They record the time the water is flowing, so all you need to do it measure your pressure (or time it yourself while filling a gallon bucket) and then determine how many gallons per minute pressure you have to know how much the horses are drinking.
It does require some word problem type math, but if I can figure it out then anyone can. I really hate math. :winkgrin:

Another vote for Nelsons from me, but if you don’t have power running to the units outside then you won’t have heated ones.
In medium to mild climates the outdoor Nelsons can stay unfrozen if you install them in the concrete sonatube instead of the conrete pad with stainless tower on top. The sonatube can be 8-10’ or deeper and with a little pipe insulation inside will stay unfrozen unless it’s artic outside for a long time. However then you’re looking at digging helluva deep holes for each installation.
Whichever type you decide to try you can save a lot by installing each one right in your fencelines so more than one turnout shares a single unit. You can cut the amount of units you need by half doing it that way. :yes:
I’ve only heard good things about Richies too…having a larger reservoir helps when you have multiple horses that like to drink at the same time.
Another good idea is putting up a tiny roof over each one. Kind of like a wishing well little peaked roof. It keeps the sun from turning it into hot soup temps in summer between the times horses are drinking and refilling it with cool water. It also helps keep pollen and stuff from floating in it.

Another huge fan of the Nelsons here. After having lived with water tanks for years, I think about how fabulous they are just about every day.

My one piece of advice would be to make sure you read the installation instructions and contact the company if you have any questions. And supervise your plumber (Oh, boy they just love being supervised by some picky little lady!). I have found that plumbers sometimes don’t understand the concept of “geothermal heat” and only want to dig the hole for the waterer the depth of the waterline. Not so, the concrete pipe needs to go down 4-6 feet BELOW the frost line to take advantage of the geothermal heat to keep the water unfrozen. Of course, there is an electric heater as well, but the geothermal heat keeps the line going up to the waterer unfrozen. I also had a plumber that wanted to install extra installation inside the insulating tube, and that is a big no-no too as you need to allow the heat from the ground to rise up around the water line inside the insulating tube.

We saved some money on the installation by purchasing the electric wire for the waterers ourselves, although we did have an electrician hook them up.

DO NOT let the cost of installation of the waterers sway you away from getting them. They are worth their weight in gold.

Hi Deltawave - This is a super old post but… I was wondering if you still like your Varnan Waterers? Anything you wish you could change about them?

Hi, I still have mine and it’s still great. I have had to replace the toilet “guts” twice in 16 years, a 15 minute/$25 project. The heater works great and it is trouble free. Best barn feature hands down.

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Thanks for sharing your experience!! They sound great but wanted to hear from someone that has one. Is it easy to clean? How often so you have to clean them? Also wondering how the install was? Did you do it yourself?

I clean it about once a week. Scoop
Out the water with a small bucket, lift the tub out, scrub with a brush and drop it back in.
My husband installed it. We had the water line put in when they ran water to our barn. Took him about 4 hours—very deep hole as our frost line is about 40”