Supplemental water access, such as water tanks and troughs, are important to the health and vitality of cattle, but can also serve as an important water supply for wildlife. Providing access to this water can help small wildlife such as birds, bats, and squirrels get to the water. Perhaps more important than providing wildlife access to the water tank, is providing a way for wildlife who may become stuck in the water tank to be able to escape. Wildlife that becomes trapped in the water can drown, resulting in reduced water quality and a potential health concern for cattle and other livestock. Research shows that access to clean water is important to overall livestock health and productivity.

The use of wildlife ramps at supplemental water sources can benefit not only livestock, but also the native wildlife species on your property. The construction of wildlife escape ramps, sometimes called tank ladders, is an easy and affordable way to accomplish this. You can start off by finding a local steel supply and ordering some 13 or 11 gauge expanded metal. One 8 ft. x 4 ft. sheet of expanded metal will yield 8 escape ramps, and that is enough to do four of your water tanks. Now, you will want to mark up your expanded metal with some soapstone or chalk and cut it into 2 ft. x 2 ft. squares. You can use metal shears, or an ox settling rig if you have access. Be cautious if you use metal shears, because they can leave behind a razor-sharp edge. If you don’t have access to these tools, contact your local metal shop. They’ll be able to cut the metal down to size for you for a small added fee. Next, you will need to bend wings for the ramp. This is best done with a metal brake, but you can make the bends using a sturdy work table and a sledgehammer. Always make sure to wear the proper personal protective equipment, including safety glasses and gloves, when working with metal.

An important feature of wildlife ramps are escape wings. Wildlife will tend to swim to the edge of the tank, and then in circles until they find a way out - or tire and drown. A ramp without these wings might allow wildlife to swim right under the ramp and never find their way out. After the wings are made, you will notice triangles present at both ends of the ramp. These triangles, when bent in opposite directions, create a stabilizing foot for the ramp, and a hook to hang over the mouth of the water tank.

To keep the ramps from rusting and looking good for a long time, it’s a good idea to paint or dip the ramps with some non-toxic paint. Let them dry before placing them into water tanks. Finally, the ramp should be fixed to the tanks to keep them in place. You can use a self-tapping metal screw and a large washer, or find a clamping system that works for you that allows you to move the ramp for tank maintenance. There are different styles of wildlife ramps and ladders. It will be up to you to decide what will work best with your situation.

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