Big Whey Tank

On Friday we got a new bigger whey tank for deliveries of cow and goats whey. The new tank is 1,025 gallons. We still have the old tank which is 725 gallons so this gives us a lot more whey storage capacity.

The tank looks like a space ship sitting up on the hill next to the whey tank road that goes up to the upper pond. On getting the new tank the first thing we did was remove the inner elbow on the output valve. Will eagerly climbed in to do this. Why, you ask, would he “eagerly” climb in??? He was eager because last time we didn’t think remove the elbow until after the tank had been in use for several months in the hot summer sun… Imagine… Olfactorilly… This tank is clean right now. Brave of Will for having done it the first time. Eager to do it now. Thank you Will!

Will Making a Face after Taking Out First Elbow

So why take off the elbow on the output you ask? Because the elbow on the output vent clogs with butter chunks that occasionally show up in the whey. It took us a while to figure this out. Most annoying. I think the elbow is there to make the output valve suck from the bottom of the tank. In our application it is not necessary – I tip the tank just a little on it’s pad – and the tank gets flushed every day.

Friday evening Holly and I used the tractor to graded a place for the new tank and rock picked it so there wouldn’t be any sharp pokey things sticking up into the bottom of the tank. It is rather challenging to make a just off level spot on a very off level mountain. More so than one would think. What looks level to us hillbillies is actually quite tilted. But, using a 12′ 2×4 and a spirit level we finally got the spot right. Once the tank was in place we called it a night.

Saturday morning I spent redoing the plumbing for the pipes that deliver whey from the original whey tank, which we’ll still be using to hook in the new tank and make it so we can deliver whey to each of the feeding areas.

Brent Filling the Old Whey Tank

My alternative title for this post was “Push Button Pigs” because with the whey feeding properly setup it is absurdly easy to feed the pigs – most of the time. Every once in a while there is a snag, sometimes a significant one like a frozen line when someone forgets to empty the pipes in the winter after feeding, but in general it is easy enough that even ten year old Ben is able to handle the day-to-day feeding of about 100 pigs with ease simply by turning a few valves.

Occasionally a clot of butter used to get stuck in the pipes, but we’ve got that pretty much figured out. During the winter there is the complication of needing to empty the pipes after each feeding to avoid frozen pipes, which we did get occasionally. To to empty the pipes is quite simple since we don’t have the buried. In the deep snow you can’t trust that the pipes are uniformly sloping downhill so after feeding one just opens all the valves and walks along the lines lifting them up so the flow goes out ahead and down to the bath tub troughs.

Now that winter and freezing weather are past my next goal is to setup float valves that will automatically top off the feeding tubs as the pigs drink them down. This is a little bit of a challenge as the pigs can be quite rough on pipes and other things they are able to reach. I have some ideas – we’ll see which ones work.

Sunday: Outdoors: 61°F/28°F Mostly cloudy, light morning rain
Farm House: 62°F/58°F
Tiny Cottage: 62°F/52°F

Saturday: Outdoors: 68°F/27°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 64°F/58°F
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/53°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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32 Responses to Big Whey Tank

  1. Jon Crane says:

    Very cool system you’ve got there Walter. That whey must come down the pipe with a lot of pressure. Ever spring a leak and give the pigs a whey shower?

  2. It’s probably only about 20 psi at most, not all that much pressure. The pigs sometimes do give themselves a beauty bath, either getting in front of the incoming whey or hopping into the tank and laying down. I hear that in the city spas such skim milk bath beauty treatments are very expensive. I’m just glad we can keep our ladies happy. :)

  3. David says:

    Push button pigs. I like that! I can just see your new book. Farming for Dummies!

  4. Hmm… Well, it’s not quite that easy. Somehow the days seem to each get filled to overflowing. But that is good. :)

  5. Podchef says:

    I could sure use a tank that size attached to my Pig Fountain!

    Hauling water in a 55 gallon drum has become only slightly less time consuming. . . .

  6. Pirate says:

    I am making cheese at home (very small scale) and wonder: my dog absolutely LOVES the whey and seems to tolerate it fine. (He’s on a natural food diet: raw meat, bones, veggie glop, no grain, NOTHING commercial.) Is it okay to feed him the whey in moderation? Like a cup or two a day? Otherwise, what should I do with all the whey???

  7. Pirate,

    I would think it would be fine. Try a little and see. The whey we get is a little salty and tastes sort of like coconut juice of all things. I’ve had a taste when blowing out a pipe. Our dogs lap it up and particularly love any lumps of butter or cream they find.

    As always, moderation in all thing.



  8. Lisa in WA says:

    Hi Walter,
    Great site! I’m wondering can you ‘guestimate’ how much whey your sows are consuming on a daily basis? We just found a local source of whey and I’d like to feed it to my own pigs, but I don’t want to overdo it (which pigs tend to do if given half a chance!). What else are you feeding them? We like the idea of using out-of-date human products (dairy, breads, etc.) so many of the ‘swine feeding guidelines’ aren’t much help to us (the labels just don’t tell me how much crude protein, etc., is in a bag of bagels, ya know?!). :) Thanks for a great site – I’m still chewing my nails over the idea of eating boar meat . . . . Take care! Lisa

  9. Lisa, I can do more than guestimate… the pigs eat, on average, 3.6 gallons of whey per hundred weight of pig per day. Ergo, a 200 lb pig is typically drinking 7.2 gallons of whey. We free feed as much as possible both of the whey and the hay/pasture. They don’t “pig out”. Since this isn’t a measured amount it could well be that they would do great on less whey per day. That is also averaging out over many animals and sizes from weaners to big breeders.

    The whey plus pasture/hay is basically a balanced diet. It is a little short on calories during the dead of winter.

    For other foods, in the fall and early winter they get veggies we’ve grown in a small amount, once in a while (monthly, 2x?) we get dated bread from a local bakery. In the past we’ve gotten cheese trim and excess milk. The milk, cheese and bread add calories which are good in the winter.

    At times we’ve also gotten small quantities of spent barley from a local micro-beer brewery. That is barley that has been boiled to get the sugars for the beer making. What is left behind is fiber and protein which is excellent for the grower pigs, chickens, etc. The adult pigs love it too but I don’t have enough to give them more than a treat. Smells wonderful, like barley soup.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Colette Nester said…

    Do you have a problem with your whey spoiling during the summer months? We have a close dairy that dumps out a hundred gallons of whey every day, and are interested in getting it, but they mentioned scooping off fat/foam off the top? Any ideas? thanks

  11. Do you have any problems during the warm months of the whey spoiling or turning rancid? We raise hogs, and a nearby cheesemaking dairy offered us their whey, but said that you’d have to scoop off foam/or fat – or it will spoil. What do you do to the whey you receive to keep it from spoiling? Thanks Colette

  12. Colette,

    We don’t have any problem with spoilage but realize that we live in a relatively cool climate. If you were in Georgia or Texas, or some other hot climate, it could be an issue. Our summer days are normally in the 60’s to 70’s and very rarely over 80째F.

    As to the foam/fat, that’s good food for the pigs. Feed it out to them!



  13. Jeff Marchand says:

    Hey Walter I just picked up my first load of whey tonight and I can say I like your system better. I got about 175 gallons in a 275 gallon capacity tank for 7, 11 week old piglets. I see now that was probably too much oh well I’ll get less next week. Hydrolics on the tractor are strong enough to lift the container, but I forgot about Sir Isaac Newton. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.. The hydrolics lifting the weight caused my back wheels to come up about two feet off the ground! Its awefully hard to go anywhere with your drive wheels up in the air.
    In my mental list of things that are heavy (boulders , 1 inch think steel plates, gold bricks etc. ) I never included whey. I should have and so should anyone planning on lifting 100-275 gallons of the stuff. In the next few weeks I will be investing in calcium balast for my rear tractor tires. Or just leave the silly tank in the back of my 1/4 ton pick up and drain off as I need!

    What kind tank does Brent run that can hold the weight of the 1000 gallon tank?Is it reinforced in any way?

    • Careful not to break your tractor. I have fluid weight in the back of our tractor plus I generally have the backhoe on as well which adds more weight. Don’t stress the system too much thought.

      What we do is the truck drains to stationary tanks that can then drain down to troughs as far as 400 or so feet away through pipes. I might be able to go another 200′ or so but haven’t needed to. This works as we’re on the side of the mountain. I built our whey driveway specifically for the whey trucks so they could climb up high enough year round so that everything gravity feeds. Gravity is my friend. Pumps and mechanical systems break down too easily, especially in the cold of winter.

      Culture your whey with some yogurt.

  14. Jeff Marchand says:

    Err I meant ” What kind of TRUCK does Brent run”

    • Two of the trucks are old fire trucks which carry about 1,500 gallons or so of whey in a stainless steel tank on the truck. The other two trucks are a heavy duty pickup truck like vehicle but more reinforced and stronger built, dual rears, etc. Those carry 700 gallons each.

  15. Jeff Marchand says:

    Walter can you explain the how and why to culture the whey with yoghurt?

    My pigs have had the ‘runs’ since I started feeding whey . Does that mean I am over feeding or will that clear up as they get used to it? Will culturing it with youghurt help ? Or is it just inevitable if liquid is going in liquid will come out the other end?

    As always,



    • The yogurt helps to prevent mold in the tanks, makes the whey more digestible and helps prevent the runs. Be sure your pigs are getting plenty of pasture/hay to go with the whey. Both should be free fed. We time to time make the yogurt up in 5 gallon pails and then dump in one per 1,000 gallon whey tank.

  16. Sharon says:

    Hey Walther,
    I just came accross your information today and wanted to say thanks for being available. We have potbellied pigs and have had a hard time with our sow keeping her milk when she births we did not know it was safe to deworm and don’t like giving our animals chemical wormers I found your natural deworming list on another q & a site and am starting do do some of what you suggested. We have horses and know that they have sensitive stomachs so we have to gradually make our changes are pigs the same or can we start them on the whey without a problem? Thanks in advance.

    • Make major dietary changes slowly to give the animal’s gut bacteria and other digestive processes time to adjust. I would introduce the whey, along with hay or grass, over a period of a minimum of two weeks, gradually increasing the amount each day. I don’t have horses but from what I understand of them they are more sensitive than pigs – still, go gradually.

  17. Justin Lewis says:

    Hi Walter,

    Should we be concerned on the whey product istself from the animals it came from? Any advice would be much appreciated.


    • Pigs were traditionally used to consume the whey from butter making, cheese making, dry off, mastitis and freshening when the milk might not be of quality that people would want to drink but I’ve never heard of it hurting the pigs or causing any problems with the pork.

      I would have a bit of concern, although I don’t know if it is valid, of getting the milk from industrial cows that have been on a diet of antibiotics, hormones and rBGH. I don’t know if those are issues or not but they raise a bit of a red flag. By the time it has been processed through the cow and then through the pig it may be fine. As I said, I’ve not ever heard of a problem.

      Whey, and milk, are such great feeds and make the meat taste so delicious that if I had to I would setup my own dairy. This would not be for the purpose of selling milk for human consumption – there are too many liability and regulatory issues there. Rather I would milk for the purpose of having dairy for our pigs to produce the pasture/dairy fed pork. This would also produce rose veal and beef in the process. This is just like running the chickens with the pigs – it is a system of sustainable production. But, for now I have sources of dairy and other projects to keep me busy. :)

  18. Adam DeGraff says:

    Just curious, what does the final destination tub look like? We are very small scale, but it really chaps my hide when I pour a few gallons of milk/whey/keifer into the feed trough and the pigs turn it over in their excitement. And yes, as you mentioned above, we have a small dairy operation that provides milk and all it’s glorious by products to us (humans) and our pigs and chickens usually in the form of keifer.

    • We have lots of different troughs from 30 gallon barrel bottoms to 300 gallon cattle troughs set in the ground. Here’s a picture of a 300 gallon trough and here are some pictures of other troughs. Rocks in the trough as shown here also help keep it stable. Barrel tops as bottoms have rims that don’t flip as easily as bottoms as troughs. How’s that for a sentence. See here where there is a photo of a sow drinking out of a trough made from the top third of a barrel – the rim makes it flip less. Tying or screwing a trough to the ground, a rock, a post also helps.

  19. Adam DeGraff says:

    I know this is an old topic, but I was wondering where you get pipe and fittings? I have a tank with a 2″ outlet and am having trouble figuring out piping and fittings. Got a place you can recommend? Or am I just looking in the wrong section at Lowe’s?!

  20. Shara LaFave says:

    Thank you so much for all of the information. This site is a blessing. Can you please a tell me what brand of tank you are using and how many days the way will keep in warm weather like 70s and 80s in the summer in Ohio? Thanks.

    • I’m not sure of the brand of the whey tanks. They’re wrapped up and buried in snow at this point so I can’t look at them. The whey in our tank turns over every two days or so because we get three to four deliveries a week. I know that if I leave a pail out somewhere it gets to a point where I wouldn’t want to drink it in less than a week but the pigs like it. Yogurtizing it improves storage time and fights off molds and ‘bad’ bacteria. Shading and good soil contact should help keep it cooler and store longer.

  21. Shara LaFave says:

    Last question. What is your time to market weight with this diet?

    • Time to market varies with sex, season, breed and feed. With our diet we tend to get boars from our best lines to market size of about 250 lbs live weight in about six months over the warm season. Add a month for gilts. Add a month for slower breeds, add more time for slowest breeds (Tamworth in our case), add a month or so for winter season.

  22. Shara LaFave says:

    Thank you so much Walter

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