Calf Waterer

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So, you got some calves.  They need a lower water tank (they being shorter n’ all).  Trouble is…….The stupid adults drink all the water out of the small tank before the peewee’s can get any.

Well, here ya go.

Panel Layout/Build

It’s handier to cut all the pieces beforehand.  My overall inside height is 44″, the inside width is 48″, and the overall length is approximately 72″ .  Yours will vary, depending on your needs….#of calves, size of watering tank, etc.

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Since this is a small enough project, I like to use the welding table to do the fitup.  Nice flat surface.

The simplest method of fitup is to use a fixture.  Something to clamp the pieces to.  I’ve found that, for my needs, a set of fixtures made from 3″ angle iron is sufficient.  Easy on/off the table.  Easy to clamp to.  Care must be taken to weld the angles together so that top/bottom surfaces are parallel.  You’ll find this method very stable.  They don’t move around once the pieces are clamped to it, it’s a lot of combined weight, and will stay stable during welding.

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There’s 2 identical side panels.  Layout, and tacking, of the first panel is done on the fixture.  To keep things square: 1 Measure all four sides to make sure LxW  are equal.  2  Measure the diagonals, they should be equal.

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The precut pieces of the second panel are simply assembled on top of the first pre-tacked panel.  Simplifies matters.  Tack these, and you’re ready for the finish welding.

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 I’m using 11ga, 2″x2″, tubing for this.  Because it’s light material, it’s suitable for wire welding.  Specifically FCAWs (self shielded flux core wire)  I like NR-211MP from Lincoln.  What you use is up to you, there’s a lot of decent brands out there.

Why FCAWs??  I weld outside, where it’s breezy.  MIG doesn’t work outside where the breeze can blow the shielding gas away.

Flux core can look fairly decent if you’re good at it.

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Not as pretty as MIG, or 7018, but it is what it is.

Marrying the Panels

If you’ve done everything right, the next step is relatively easy.  When assembling the finished panels, remember to keep measuring for square.

I transfer the first panel to a set of horses.  On the horses are two pieces of tubing which have been set up to be planar.  A good flat surface, despite the ground the horses are sitting on.  You can do this by sighting across the edges of the pieces of tubing, and adjusting their position accordingly.  I build stuff up to 20′ long using this method, and it does work.

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 After truing up the stretchers/uprights, the other panel can be installed.  Remember you’re only tacking stuff together at this point.  Finish weld it when it’s fully tacked.  This allows you to correct mistakes, and it allows you to do the finish welding with a minimum of distortion.

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The finish welding is done in place.  Something this size/weight is a PITA to flip all around to weld.  If you’re not good at out of position welding, this is a good project to polish up your skills.  (I write for beginners, so don’t be offended if you’re a seasoned hand)

Again, the welds can look fairly good with this process.  Remember to fully close your corners when welding, don’t leave gaps where the beads meet.  Water gets in, fills the cavity, and freezes in Winter, leading to cracked steel from expansion of the ice inside the tubing.

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To see if your welds are hot enough, it’s a good idea to look at the backside of the metal where it’s visible.  Signs of heat are easy to detect.  It should look like it almost burnt through, or at least leave a bluish heat signature.

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The Water Tank Enclosure

This is where the water tank will sit.  Have to protect it from shifting when kicked.  The location will vary according to your tank size.

Nothing fancy, just a couple of rails, and some filler posts.  Notice that the frame was built to accommodate the location.  Yours should be likewise.

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Cage Panels

The cage panels are simple cattle panels, trimmed to fit.  When sizing the waterer, it’s a good idea to measure the cattle panel to see where the wire will land when it’s welded to the frame.  You want a full section/square to land on the frame.

At this point I have to take the frame off of the horses, and flip it on its side to install the cage.  It’s easier to attach the cattle panel when it’s laying flat on the frame

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You can see why it’s important to keep everything square through the entire build.  Ultimately, the cattle panel has to have an absolutely square frame to attach to.

Height Bar

To regulate the size animal that can gain access to the stock tank, I decided to use a height bar.  There’s other ways to regulate size, such as a divider, but the bar seemed best at the time.

Two plates, with cutouts to accept the bar, are attached to the frame at the appropriate height.

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One end of the height bar is secured by a simple stop block.

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The other end is pinned.

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When the calves were first exposed to the waterer, they were hesitant to enter the cage.  The height bar had to be removed for the first few days, until the little ones got used to something over their heads.  After the “breakin period” (about 4 days), the bar was installed, and all went well.  Even without the bar, the cage kept all adult cows from the water tank.  44″ (without the bar) is simply too low for a full grown cow to enter.


Anyone familiar with livestock knows they can be destructive.  A 1500lb bull will push this thing all over the lot unless it’s tied down.

Anchors, sized so that T-Posts can be driven through them, are installed at all four corners.  These are the only welds utilizing SMAW (7018).  The 1/2″ round stock is too heavy for wire welding when using smaller .030 wire.

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Hope you enjoyed.  Just another way to skin a cat I guess.


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