The Benefits of Geotextile Fabric and Gravel in Cattle Lanes
Eric Bright and his family operate a 210 acre farm located in north central Missouri. Their farm consists of 150 acres of pasture where they run a 60 cow grass-based dairy that uses Management Intensive Growing (MiG). Eric and his family received a 2001 SARE grant to improve the quality of the lanes in which the dairy cows pass through twice daily.
The intention of this project was to install geotextile fabric and gravel on approximately 1200 feet of lane to assist in maintaining the quality of the lanes. “Without adequate gravel the lanes quickly become muddy, eroded, difficult to navigate (for the cattle as well as the farmer), and unsightly,” explained Eric. The restored lanes would provide a clean healthier environment for the cows as well as reducing the amount of time spent cleaning the udders in preparation for milking. The improvement to the lanes would also help the environment by controlling erosion and improve the appearance of the Bright’s farm.
With the help of the SARE grant they were able to purchase and experiment with the fabric. They experimented with different sizes and thicknesses to determine the most effective and cost-efficient way. Throughout their short trial they concluded that at least 6 inches of aggregate over the fabric should be used; with the best aggregate being 4 inches of mine shale with 1 inch of commercial base on top. The mine shale appeared to make the best base and perform well in the shedding of water as well as being more cost effective when compared to other combinations.
The success of the Bright’s project has allowed them to host several farm walks where producers and students could see first hand the success of their SARE project. They were also given the opportunity by the Missouri Forage and Grassland Conference to be on the producer panel and present their farm to over 150 producers from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Australia. They plan to continue sharing the success of their project to promote more sustainable agriculture practices among family farms.