Shane Barber is familiar with raising large groups of cattle. He’s also familiar with the challenges of keeping them supplied with water.
A third generation rancher from the spring creek area by Hermosa in western South Dakota, the Barber family has worked for generations to develop water sources for their cattle. His grandfather was one of the first in his area to put in piped water, Barber said.
With a background in engineering, Shane Barber, 46, designed and refined a sturdy but portable water tank that works for livestock as small as a lamb and as burly as a bison. Barber Industries makes and sells the Water Storage Drinker to customers across the West, including some pretty large ranches.
At their own Hermosa-area ranch, the Barber family has been using an intensive grazing approach for about the last decade. They move groups of 500 head from paddock to paddock every few days.
Keeping each pasture supplied with water was a challenge. Their ranch is at the end of the line for the water system, and every tap ran 2-3 gallons a minute.
“That was the birth of the Storage Drinker,” Barber said.
The Storage Drinker is sold with a 1,400 or 2,300-gallon capacity. They have lift points in several places, allowing the tank to be moved by a skid steer or most any piece of equipment that has a pallet fork.
They fit well with a neighboring Hermosa, South Dakota bison herd that’s constantly on the move.
The 777 Bison Ranch ranch has been using the tanks for 10 years. They have seven tanks used with their holistic approach to ranch management. The 777 ranch uses high intensity, short duration grazing where the animals are in small paddocks and move every day or two. The water tanks can be moved right along with the herd.
“You need a large amount of water for one day or two days. That tank fills the need,” ranch manager Moritz Espe said.
Managing a herd of more than 1,400 American Bison may seem daunting, but for 777 Bison Ranch…
The tanks are well built with solid steel, able to stand up to the rough bison.
“The strength comes from the circle,” Espe said.
He also likes that it’s a product from a family business: “It’s built by ranchers for ranchers.”
Barber studied mechanical and welding engineering at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. He worked in the electrical field in Wisconsin, worked on combines in Nebraska and heating and cooling systems in eastern South Dakota before returning to the family ranch.
“I fell in love with intensive grazing,” he said.
He designed his first water tank about 14 years ago. The design is much like a poultry waterer, plumbed with a float system. There’s a large storage tub and a smaller drinking trough.
“It’s not a new design, but it’s the refinement,” Barber said. “It’s not rocket science.”
Both the 1,400-gallon and 2,300-gallon tanks are 6-feet tall with a 13-inch wrap-around drinking trough that’s accessible to both young and full-grown animals.
“Most traditional water tank designs are too tall,” Barber said. “Baby calves love storage drinkers.”
The larger model is 8 feet in dimeter and the smaller is 6 feet. To keep prices down, he no longer paints the tanks like he used to. Still, he said, they’ll last 30 years or more.
The simple, portable design makes them compatible with leased pastures and for seasonal grazing of corn stalks or cover crops.
“They just work so well. They don’t leave a footprint and you don’t have to pour any concrete,” said Brian Barber, Shane’s dad who runs the family ranch.
The ground where the tank rests doesn’t even have to be completely level, Shane added.
“Every little aspect has been refined over and over,” he said. “I’m proud of how it actually functions.”