‘Beat the Freeze’ and Protect Your Farm

Wednesday, 19 November, 2014

The Ulster Farmers’ Union and Northern Ireland Water are renewing their call to farmers to consider now the impact of a burst pipe this winter and to protect their farm. 

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson said: “Just because we may have had a few mild winters, does not mean we should become complacent.  I’d encourage farmers to take heed of Northern Ireland Water’s advice and to do things such as lag pipes and install stop valves with the aim of minimising water difficulties this winter. Prevention is better than cure and with many cattle still in the fields now is the perfect time to get sheds ready for the winter.”

Brian McCalmont, Head of Leakage, NI Water, comments: “Over 60% of NI Water’s non domestic customers are classified as farms, so it is an important consumer group for us.  Farms can also be among our most vulnerable group if they lose their water supply.   The effects of dealing with the aftermath of a burst pipe on a farm cannot be underestimated.  Water is the single most important requirement for livestock.  On a dairy farm, livestock drinking water accounts for between 50% and 75% of the farm’s water usage.  It is therefore vital farmers have a clean constant supply of water.”

There are a number of ways farmers can prevent problems from occurring or minimising their impact if they happen including:

  •  Ensure that you have good understanding of the layout of pipework within your land and keep a map of the line of this pipework;
  • Know where your stop valves are located; why not put one of NI Water’s new stop valve tags on them, you can request these by phoning Waterline 08457 440088.
  • Ideally, install a number of stop valves to isolate water supply to disused areas of the farm during the winter months; 
  • Ensure that you have a supply of the relevant fittings to repair any leakages;
  • Know where your meters are located (NI Water will help you to do this if asked) and check them on a regular basis.  A higher reading may indicate a leak which should be located and repaired as quickly as possible to reduce water bills, which are a major liability for a working farm; 
  • Inspect remote troughs which may not be used at this time of year, particularly the exposed pipe leading into the trough; if cattle are inside consider turning the supply to the trough off at the meter or installing a stop valve for the trough (or field) so you turn off the supply without having to do so at the meter.  Consider draining troughs;
  • Where practical ensure all underground pipes are buried 750 millimetres (2½ feet) below ground level.
  • Ensure any pipes within buildings are insulated, where appropriate, taking account of the presence of any livestock;
  • Fix dripping taps – a gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe;
  • Examine the adequacy of storage in the event of a supply problem. NI Water recommends at least 24 hours storage;
  • Write down the name and contact details of a SNIPEF (Scotland & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation) registered plumber in case a pipe does burst.


NI Water has also provided UFU with stop value tags and thermometers that will be distributed to local UFU offices. Farmers can use the brightly coloured tags to mark stop valves in the fields or in sheds. By putting the tags on, it can help to remind them where the stop valves are on their farm and the bright colour of the tag will serve as a useful marker in future when they are looking for particular stop valves again.

NI Water’s ‘Beat the Freeze video can be viewed on our website www.niwater.com/winter-proof-your-home/