If you use large and deep water troughs to water your cattle, then you may have problems with birds that affect the quality of your livestock's drinking water. Your cows aren't the only creatures that will drink from your troughs; local birds may also see your troughs as an instant drinking supply, especially during hot summers.
While you may not have a problem watering your local feathered friends along with your cows, you can run into problems if birds fall into deep troughs, can't get out and then die. This can be a real problem in more remote troughs that aren't checked every day. A rotting, dead bird releases all kinds of nasty stuff into the water that could affect the health of your herd. What can you do to prevent this from happening?
Adjust the Trough's Valve
Birds most often fall into difficulty when water trough levels are low. For example, a bird may perch on the edge of your trough to drink, but if the water level is too low to reach easily, the bird may fall into the water when it tries to reach down. The bird may get waterlogged and, if there isn't anything in the tank from which it can get its footing and fly out, it may simply drown. Adjusting your tank's valves so that your water level is consistently towards the top of the tank may prevent this from happening—if a bird can drink from the edge, it shouldn't fall into the trough in the first place.
Give Birds a Helping Hand
You can buy plastic discs that float on the top of the water in a trough. Birds can use these as a drinking station or as a way of getting out of water if they accidentally fall in. Alternatively, you can try placing a piece of untreated wood in the trough that will float on the surface of the water. If you're worried about your cows messing with this wood, you can also try standing a piece of wood on the bottom of the trough and resting it against one of the sides. This may be enough for a bird to get some purchase to get far enough out of the water to dry off and fly out of the trough again.
Your local water trough supplier may also be a useful source of advice on how to prevent birds from taking a fatal plunge and jeopardising the health of your cattle. You may find other ways to modify existing troughs or get useful tips on bird-proof replacements if you're looking to buy a new trough.