Tire tank plans

While there seems to be more and more interest in managed grazing systems, water continues to come up as one of the major limiting factors in implementing a grazing system. One of the big concerns seems to be the cost and durability of water tanks. The past year or so we have been working with tire tanks at the Forage Systems Research Center. Large construction equipment tires have been used for some time to make tire tanks, but they seem to be getting harder to locate and are heavy to work with. We have been using combine tires at FSRC with very good success.

Here is how we have been making our tanks:

  • We have been using a 28L26 combine tire. Using tires that have heavier sidewalls will give a much sturdier tank.
  • The first step is to cut out one sidewall. Look at the bead area and cut the sidewall out of the side with the most damaged bead. A "Sawzall" type reciprocating saw works well for this. Don’t try to cut through the bead. It will literally take you longer to cut through the bead than it will to cut out the whole sidewall. Make the cut so that you will leave 5 to 6 inches of sidewall in from the lugs.
  • Now you need to decide how you will seal the bottom. There are three ways we have found to do this.
    • One way to seal the tank is to use concrete. Trench in your water supply and overflow line to where you plan to put the tank and set the tire over them with the intact sidewall down. Locate the coupler fittings that you will attach your overflow riser and inlet valve to just above the rim hole on the bottom of the tire and pour concrete just to the top of that rim hole. Make sure you push concrete out under the sidewall of the tire. Having screw in fittings just above the level of the concrete bottom makes them much easier to plumb. The challenge to doing a tank this way is that you have to be a decent plumber and concrete man to make sure the lines are where they need to be and that you don’t get concrete into them.
    • A second way to seal the bottom is to use bentonite. Basically it is the same procedure as using concrete and does work well. I have talked to some producers in the western part of the country who have said that the action of the water running into the tank erodes the bentonite and you have to keep resealing it.
    • A third way to seal a tire tank is to use plastic sheeting. While I am sure there are other places to get sheets of plastic, we have been getting some from Coon Manufacturing, (660- 485-6299) east of Spickard MO. A 4x8 sheet ½ inch thick is about $120 and will make at least 3 tank bottoms depending on what size tire you use. Cut a circle of plastic out 4 to 6 inches wider than the rim hole. Place the plastic over the rim hole and center it so that the overlap is about the same on all sides of the opening. Use 3/8-inch bolts spaced 4 inches apart around the bead to secure the plastic to the bottom bead of the tire. Make sure your bit is sharp when you start drilling through the bead. When you start, drill one hole and put a bolt in to hold the plastic in place. It is real easy for things to get out of alignment as the plastic slides easily on the rubber tire surface. When you have the holes drilled mark one bolt and hole with chalk so that you can re-align the holes right and pull the plastic bottom out. With a wire brush or grinder rough up the surface of the plastic where it is in contact with the rubber. Apply a liberal amount of heavy tar or silicone to the tire bead and set the plastic back in place. Tighten the bolts but do so evenly around the bead so as to not pucker anything. The bolts need to be tight but not to the point where things are warped. Caulk the bottom where the plastic and bead meet. The tank is ready to set.
  • With these or any tank in a controlled grazing situation, where cattle come to drink as a group, tank re-charge rate is very important. You need to have a high capacity of "high flow" valve. The tanks we have set have a Neville’s High Flow Valve (pictured right) in them, which cost about $30 per tank. Not as cheap of a valve as some but you get the fast refill you need and they look to be fairly problem free so far.
  • Drill a hole in the plastic for the valve and one for the overflow and tighten them down. Place the tank over your supply lines and make the connections.
  • We have had really good luck with these plastic bottom tire tanks at FSRC. They are cheap and easy to make and are very durable. Dennis Jacobs has had the crew setting them in the ground to about the depth of the center of the tire lugs. This helps give the tank more support as well as letting it take advantage of heat from the ground.

We set the tank (pictured left) up last fall, filled it with water and left it to see what would happen when it froze. It was interesting to watch how quickly the ice started to melt with just a little sunshine. That black tire soaked up heat. Using a 12 inch or larger tile as a well for the supply lines to come up through, would also let the tank take advantage of the heat of the ground much like many of the energy free waterers do. We have set these waterers in a fence line situation to water two pastures, which also has the advantage of helping to keep cattle from "swimming" in them.

Tire Tank (PDF)
Float Options (PDF)

 If you have any questions please call the Sullivan County Extension Office at (660) 265-4541 or Forage Systems Research Center, (660) 895-5121.


Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Resources: Winter 1996-97 ~ Volume 13 #4, Reusables
Tractor Tire Watering Trough by Brad Berhorst
Tired, Not Retired

The idea to construct a livestock tank from a discarded heavy-equipment tire saved Freeburg farmer Brad Berhorst money, and kept another used tire out of the waste stream. "This is a win-win situation for the farm and the environment." Berhorst said. "We needed a tank that didn't rust away every few years and a local excavating company needed to dispose of a worn out, heavy-equipment tire."

Berhorst said the project is very easy to build and can be done with a $25 investment in cement and PVC pipe. He estimates it took about three hours to finish the tank, which holds about 350 gallons.

First, remove the side wall from one side of the tire by cutting it out with a chain saw. Then, move the tire to the selected tank site. In some settings it may be necessary to dig a hole and partially bury the tire. In other settings, all it may take is to fill-in around the base with rocks or soil. Next, cut a hole and insert a PVC drain and spigot and seal the bottom of the tire with cement. Berhorst passes along this maintenance tip -- install the drain pipe without glue to make cleaning the tank easier. Finally, fill with water. Berhorst used a tire that was five feet in diameter but he believes other sizes will work just as well.

Brad said the tank's water comes from a nearby hillside spring that never runs dry or freezes. The tank provides a source of clean water for his cattle, cuts down on erosion and also helps keep animal waste out of a nearby stream. Berhorst adds that the cattle do not seem to mind an occasional minnow in the tank, which sometimes holds fish bait.